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Questions, Questions, and More Questions!

by Jo-Ann Downey

in Relationship Communication Skills

What do you do and how do you feel if someone asks you a question that you either don’t want to answer, or you don’t have the answer to?  What if the person asking the question is an authority figure, a bully, has a negative attitude, or has influence over some part of your life?

As for me, I have an outdated belief that I have to (immediately) answer every question I am asked.  This belief, coupled with a negative situation, can throw me off balance.


According to, a question is:

  • A sentence in an interrogative form, addressed to someone in order to get information in reply
  • A problem for discussion or under discussion; a matter for investigation
  • A matter of some uncertainty or difficulty; problem
  • A subject of dispute or controversy

No wonder, generally speaking, that I don’t like the word “question”!

Intention and Steps

As shared in “Seeing from your Heart”, where you are coming from is far more important than what you say.  My intention is to gracefully and confidently experience questions as explorations and to calmly choose my response.

Steps to follow in uncomfortable situations:

  • Be aware that questions can trigger you and this is an opportunity for learning.
  • Set a clear intention, especially before entering a question-rich and/or potentially negative environment.
  • Know that you do not have to answer any questions, or answer them immediately.
  • Be present and trust yourself.
  • Picture someone that you respect and trust is asking you questions to assist you in being centered. The last thing you want is a question like “Why are you so upset”?
  • Have some “go to” responses handy.

“Go To” Responses

If possible, start with a sincere “Thank you for asking” or “I appreciate/hear/understand your interest/question/inquiry” and politely and calmly respond authentically.

  • I will/I’m happy to get back to you
  • I’d like to get back to you on that (in order to provide the best answer for you)
  • I believe/feel/think it is best for me to respond after I think things through
  • I do not know
  • That information is personal/private/confidential
  • I prefer to keep that private (for now)
  • I do not have a (thoughtful) response (at this time)
  • What I am happy/able to address is…
  • I’m not comfortable answering that question
  • I prefer not to respond (at this time)
  • I’m not an expert on that (however I am happy to refer you to someone)
  • What you think is more important than what I think (in this situation)

Although answering a question with a question can work (e.g. “What do you think?”), I suggest using this technique selectively because making a statement is more self-honoring and self-empowering.  More on rhetorical questions later.

Responsibility (aka Response-Ability)

As shared in “Not All Upsets are Created Equal”, it is your responsibility to do your best to have your needs and requirements met which means to understand yourself, understand the needs and requirements of others, communicate in a mature way, compromise, and be flexible. And remember that up to 93% of all communication is non-verbal (“The 93% Impact of Nonverbal Communication”).

You may want to read “Moody People”, “Communication Checkpoints”, “Intention Series: The Secret Sauce of Intentions”, “Intention Series: How to Create Powerful Intentions”, “Intention Series: What is an Intention? Why are Intentions Important?”, “Small Steps Are The New Big Steps”.

photo credit: italian voice

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