Don’t buy-in to reporters’ negative questions

An old song included the lines ‘Accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative, and latch on to the affirmative…’.

That’s great advice for anyone doing a media interview.

Reporters are trained to ask challenging questions. CBC veteran Linden MacIntyre described his approach to interviews as ‘skeptical inquiry’. So here is a great tip for people facing negative or challenging questions: don’t get tangled up in the negativity.

If you hear only the negative words in the question, you can sabotage your answer by denying or defending against the negativity.

Say the question was ‘How disappointed are you by your recent results?’ If you focus on the word ‘disappointed’ you are likely to start your answer defensively and negatively – with a denial. But if you  focus on the words ‘recent results’ you are more likely to be able to start on a positive note with something that pleased you about the results.

Listen really carefully to the question. Don’t allow yourself to get flustered by the negative aspects of the question. Listen instead for the elements of the question that you can talk about positively.

Every question should be a springboard to your message. You just have to listen for the words and phrases that give your answers lift-off.