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That’s a good question …

We often hear “experts” being interviewed, whether on video, audio or in person, say to the interviewer or questioner, “… that’s a good question …” before they actually answer the question.

Now might think that is a good way to recognize the thoughtfulness of the question, (or at the very minimum buy time to think of an answer), but according to communications guru, Judith Humphrey, we should all stop asking it.

When I asked Anne, she nodded. And of course, she told me a story.

“A long time ago, in the past century, when I worked for an Advertising Agency, I took several courses in effective communications; particularly how to deal with the media. We were taught to acknowledge and appreciate their questions by saying:

  • “Many others have asked me that question …” OR

  • “That’s a good/great question ….”

“In both cases, the intention was to acknowledge the intelligence of the questioner and elevate the value of the question. That was the wisdom of the day.

“Let me tell you what happened the first time I began to reply with “Many others have asked …”

"The questioner’s face turned purple, he jumped up and shouted at me, “Well I am so glad that I have asked a stupid question like many other idiotic people! Don’t bother answering.” And he stormed off!

“Yikes! Impact trumps intention.

“I never used that one again."

“It took a bit longer for me to learn that telling others they had asked a good/great question was condescending. A questioner interrupted me and said sarcastically, “Well, la di dah! I am so glad you approve of my question, oh great one!”

“Ouch. That was awkward. I stopped using that one too.

“Sometimes I do say, “I am glad you asked/Thank you for asking; you’ve given me an opportunity to talk about a subject that:

  • Is close to my heart

  • Is rarely discussed

  • Has been on my mind lately

  • I love to talk about

“And sometimes I say, “Hmmm I would like to know the answer to that question myself (when I don’t know the answer).

“In any case, I completely agree with Judith Humphrey, those people with a habit of saying “That’s a good/great question …” need to stop!”

What do you think? Is this a habit you need to break?


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