Don’t tolerate the dodgePoliticians, as a group, seem specially trained to provide anything but an answer when asked a question. It’s almost as though there is some secret college for Congress members where they go to learn about the artful dodge. Just tune into the Sunday morning shows that feature our elected representatives. For example, if someone asks about the state of public education, the representative may launch into a dissertation about family values. It’s odd how many interviewers let elected officials get away with avoiding questions Sunday after Sunday.
You don’t have to do that. Don’t accept the dodge when you ask a question. Recognize this tactic for what it is and repeat the question, this time insisting on a real answer or an exact time when you can expect an answer.
When people say that they have to look into something and get back to you, about the only thing you can do (without making a rather obvious and frontal assault on their honesty) is wait. However, you can nail them down to a specific date and time that they will “get back to you.” If the question is important enough for the other side to delay (or not answer at all), the issue is important enough for you to press forward. Asking, “When can I expect an answer from you?” is a direct way of obtaining that information. Be sure to make a note of the reply.
Don’t accept an assertion for the answerA person who doesn’t want to answer your question may try instead to emphatically state something close to what you’re looking for. This technique is common when you’re asking for a commitment that the other party doesn’t want to make.
Sometimes, an assertion about the past is substituted for an answer about the future. For example, you ask whether a company plans to spend $50,000 on advertising in the next year. You receive an emphatic statement that the company has spent $50,000 each year for the past four years, that sales are rising, and that any company would be a fool to cut back now. Don’t settle for such assertions — push for an answer. Say something like “Does that mean that your company has made a final commitment to spend $50,000 for advertising this year?”
Because assertions are sometimes delivered with a great deal of energy or passion, you may feel awkward insisting on the answer to your question. Not persisting with the inquiry can be fatal to your interests.
Don’t allow too many pronounsBeware the deadly pronoun: he, she, they, and the power-gilded we. Pronouns can send you into a quagmire of misunderstanding. During a negotiation, force your counterpart to use specific nouns and proper names. This preventive measure avoids a great deal of miscommunication.
With pronouns, you must guess which “they” or which “we” the speaker is talking about. Don’t guess. Just throw up your hands and say, with humor, “Too many pronouns.” Most people won’t begrudge your taking the time to clarify this issue. More often than not, the request is greeted with a chuckle. The potential for confusion is obvious, and everyone appreciates the effort to maintain clarity.