Great communicators are powerful but have to brace for opposition. When you are bombarded with tough questions, don’t add fuel to the fire.
A leader has to take difficult decisions and cannot be everybody’s darling. At the same time, you have to report to partners, colleagues or even an entire country. You might remember town hall meetings, a sort of Pandora’s box for politicians, where an angry or uninformed member of the crowd can pop up anytime. As soon as this happens, do not rattle off the talking points. Start with the person in mind.
How to reply respectfully
Let them finish to make sure you understood.
(N.B. You can even ask to give yourself more time and be on the safe side.)
Acknowledge and express empathy.
(e.g. by conceding to a point mentioned)
Take it to the next level and appeal to common values.
(e.g. as agreed in the organisation’s strategy or constitution)
State why this difficult decision is necessary.
(N.B. The goal is not to become best mates but to calm the situation down.)
Nneka Ogwumike is one of the best basketball players in the world. Despite (or because of) her increasing popularity, she is confronted with strange questions. Listen to the first ten seconds and think of a respectful reply.