If a boss or peer asks belligerently, "Why should I listen to you?," your natural reaction is to answer. Not so fast.
Here's a better idea: Conduct some fact-finding rather than rush to deliver your response.
Digging for information helps you compose yourself as you wrestle conversational control from the more aggressive questioner. It also shows that you will not let yourself be bullied.
There's no law that says you must respond to a question with an answer. It's your choice. Sometimes, seeking clarification in a pleasant, earnest tone works to your advantage.
When executives interview Ed Brodow as a potential speaker for a convention, they often ask, "Why should I hire you?" He refuses to answer, at least not yet.
"If I answer, I'm on the defensive," says Brodow, chief executive of Ed Brodow Seminars in Monterey, Calif. "I prefer to reply, 'What do you want your speaker to accomplish?'"
He finds that they typically spend 10 minutes or more telling him what they seek in a speaker. He can then tailor his response accordingly.
Answering a question with a question doesn't always work. But it's an excellent strategy when someone interrogates you or adopts a resistant or skeptical tone.
If you rush to give what you think is a convincing answer, you take a big risk. It's better to let others talk so that you uncover their biases or needs. They may also share their concerns or reveal why they're anxious or irritated.