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Beware of question-and-answer traps

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in Office Communication,Workplace Communication

You develop rapport with employees by engaging in honest give-and-take. But if you shut down dialogues, then you invite misunderstandings. Watch for these trouble signs:

Asking the wrong questions.

Noah Baumbach, director of the 2005 movie The Squid and the Whale, told The New York Times, "Someone would ask me if something [in the movie] was true, and I'd say no, and then they'd ask me a follow-up question under the assumption that it was true." Take employees at their word--at least at first. Don't assume they're lying and interrogate them as if you don't believe a word they said.

Ignoring the question.

Law-school students learn to respond to the call of the professor's question. That means they need to stick to the issue at hand, not evade the question or go off on tangents. When employees ask for information, either address their inquiry head-on or explain why you cannot give a good answer.

Revealing too much.

If you're unable or unwilling to answer, don't blab. It's smarter to reply, "What makes you ask that?" This diverts the focus while preventing you from breaching confidentiality.

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