Executive Rewind: Handling Negative Questions

They Put You on the Defensive

You need to anticipate and have a positive response


Often referred to as “lawyer questions,” negative questions typically are prefaced by “Isn’t it true…?” or “Do you deny…?” or similar language.  But, they don’t have to be that blatant to still qualify as being negative.  Indeed, most questions have a negative tinge to them since news does, too.

For instance, questions that assume a negative state of mind or attitude, as Fox News business anchor Neil Cavuto did questioning Dr. Hank McKinnell, Chairman and CEO of Pfizer.

“Are you troubled…?”  “…a lousy month, a lousy quarter…” “People not really optimistic…”  Lots of negative language leading into the ultimate question.  Instinct might trigger a response to challenge some of those negatives by repeating and then denying or debating them.  To his credit, McKinnell does not fall into that trap, instead responding from his perspective as chairman of the Business Roundtable with a valid and much more optimistic picture.

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The Media Trainers® Re–winder Reminder:

  • Recognize that most questions are negative in nature. Prepare for that so that you’re not manipulated into a weakened position.
  • Take your time answering. Ask yourself: “How can I respond to this in a positive way, one that better communicates my messages?”
  • You have a right to your perspective. Exercise it. Don’t get snagged on a reporter’s agenda. Practice ahead of time so that you are mentally prepared to let those nasty negative questions bounce off your chest.

The Media Trainers®, LLC, has a Tough Questions eBook on our Web site that you can download free for easy reference.

The Media Trainers®

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