Check out today’s teatime titbits: Speak like a (native) politician.
Let’s face it, nobody likes the politicians ability to effortlessly waffle on about (schwafeln) nothing before giving some vague answer in the last sentence at best – by which you’ve usually switched off so you missed the punchline (Pointe) or wriggle out of (sich aus etw herauswinden) answering questions completely at worst.
Naturally, I would never want you to sound like a politician, but there are occasions where having a few phrases in your arsenal to gain time or maybe even refuse answering a question could be useful.
So here goes – my phrases for dealing with difficult questions:
1. How to gain thinking time …. even a few milliseconds gives you time to sort out your response.
- I’m afraid I didn’t (quite) catch your question. Would you mind repeating it?
- I’m not sure I understood / understand the question, are you asking me ……?
- What exactly do you mean by?
- That’s a very interesting / good question (, which I am often asked ……)
2. You don’t actually know the answer, but try to be helpful:
- I’m afraid I don’t know the answer to that, but what I can say is …
- That’s really a question for the experts, but my guess would be…
- I’m not an expert on the subject, but ..
3. Refuse to answer – but do it nicely – “I’m afraid“ is always a good lead-in
- I’m afraid, I’m not in a position to answer that
- You’ll understand that I can’t comment on that
- It’s too early for anyone to say at present
Hope those simple and yet effective phrases will get you out of a tight spot (den Kopf aus der Schlinge ziehen) sometime.
Heard any other good phrases on your travels? Why not put them in a comment below – keep them clean, please?
4 Gedanken zu „Speak like a (native) politician.“
Yet another idea is wandering away from the subject:
„That‘s an interesting question which I am often asked. But in this context people also want to know….. [and then you go on talking about something different].“
And now that most of us are working from home and WebEx/Zoom/Teams calls are part of our daily routine, the best excuse is a poor connection. A friend‘s boss even gave the official instruction to pretend problems with the internet to avoid not being able to answer delicate questions during important meetings. So, just plug off!
Oh, and don’t forget Thomas de Maizière‘s infamous answer at a memorable press conference when he was asked about details regarding the terrorist threat in Hanover: „A part of these answers would make the population feel unsafe.“ However, this mixture of confusion, alarm, and concealment might not be the best way to save the day.
Furthermore, talking your audience to death might also help to… let‘s say react… to a question. Edmund Stoiber took this to extremes! In the end he made history with sentences like these:
„Wenn Sie vom Hauptbahnhof in München… mit zehn Minuten, ohne, dass Sie am Flughafen noch einchecken müssen, dann starten Sie im Grunde genommen am Flughafen… am… am Hauptbahnhof in München starten Sie Ihren Flug. Zehn Minuten. Schauen Sie sich mal die großen Flughäfen an, wenn Sie in Heathrow in London oder sonst wo, meine sehr… äh, Charles de Gaulle in Frankreich oder in… in… in Rom.
Wenn Sie sich mal die Entfernungen anschauen, wenn Sie Frankfurt sich ansehen, dann werden Sie feststellen, dass zehn Minuten Sie jederzeit locker in Frankfurt brauchen, um ihr Gate zu finden. Wenn Sie vom Flug… vom…vom Hauptbahnhof starten – Sie steigen in den Hauptbahnhof ein, Sie fahren mit dem Transrapid in zehn Minuten an den Flughafen in… an den Flughafen Franz Josef Strauß.
Dann starten Sie praktisch hier am Hauptbahnhof in München. Das bedeutet natürlich, dass der Hauptbahnhof im Grunde genommen näher an Bayern… an die bayerischen Städte heranwächst, weil das ja klar ist, weil auf dem Hauptbahnhof viele Linien aus Bayern zusammenlaufen.“
In Bavaria this is celebrated as speech of the century (as a melomaniac I have to admit, I prefer the version with musical background: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=9Vg2h_nW0bA)!
Well, last but not least: if nothing else helps make use of the good old counter question.
I often wonder if they have training courses on how to avoid questions (effectively). I love your example of „waffle (talk a lot & say nothing) your audience to death“. Very effective. I would tune out after the 1st sentence.
Oh, I‘m pretty sure they have such training courses – and I can even imagine additional tuition in deep relaxation in order to stand all that picking on them.
Back in those days as engineer at the university hospital we were even trained on how not to apologise to patients because de jure an apology is considered as an admission of guilt!
So, if there‘s training on dealing with situations caused by factual or putative treatment mistakes, there‘s certainly also training on those caused by financial disasters, complete failures, inabilities, ignorance, and stupidity, to mention but a few. All those well-paid external advisors should at least be good for scripting some empty phrases just to keep politicians talking. Sort of „If you can’t dazzle them with your brilliance, blind them with bullshit.“ 😉
Hi Jenny, Love the phrase „If you can’t dazzle them with your brilliance, blind them with bullshit.“. It’s a new one on me, many thanx. It’ll certainly go into my stock of phrases for such things