How do I handle people who won’t answer the question?

If you are asking questions and the other person is dodging them, then you have a dilemma as to whether you persist. Here are some methods you can use.

Repeat the question

The simplest method to use is simply to ask the question again. Many people, when faced with this repetition will see that you are not going to give up and will therefore answer the question properly.

This can turn into a competition where the questioner keeps repeating the question and the other person keeps avoiding. If the avoider is determined, then they can easily win, making this a possibly unsuccessful strategy.

  • “Sorry, you have not answered the question. How much money are you prepared to invest in this?”

Ask again later

Sometimes people are not ready to answer the question at the time, perhaps because they have other things on their mind. They may also refuse to answer because of contextual factors such as other people being there and the social embarrassment or status issues that answering would cause.

  • “… (later) How much money are you prepared to invest in the business?”

Rephrase the question

Sometimes the question is not understood, or the words offend. In such cases, a simple approach is to ask the question using different words.  Further explanation and detail around the subject may help clarify the question.

  • “There is an opportunity to help grow the business and get great returns by investing in it. Are you interested in this?”

Change the tone

It can also help to reflect on how the question is being asked, for example with a commanding tone that causes reaction or in a weak way that offers refusal as a real option.

  • “Would you care to join us in a new investment? To do this we would need to know how much you would be interested in investing.”

Name the game

People such as politicians often play games around questioning, refusing or answering differently. A simple approach to game-players is to name the game, showing them that you can see what they are doing.

  • “Why are you avoiding the question? Do you want to have a share in the company? This will need investment on your part, you know.”

Ask about underlying issues

A softer approach is to assume that the person is unable to answer the question for some deeper reason. By taking a counselling or therapeutic position, you can empathize with their problem and try to find out more about why they are feel unable to answer the question.

  • “Is there anything stopping you from breaking the habit at the moment?”
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