One of the most tired expressions used in business and media in-person interactions is the old delay tactic. A person hears a question they are not sure what to do with and they immediately jump to that worn out and worthless comment, “That’s a good question.” Please, can we rid this from our lexicon once and for all? If I have to start a national movement to get this rolling, I will!
So why is this such an issue? First, it is overused to the extreme. Here’s a challenge for you: over the next week or two see how many times you hear that expression used – especially in public communication. Tense board meetings, legislative committee sessions, news conferences and staff meeting question and answer sessions are littered with “That’s a good question,” offenders. The worst of the worst use that expression over and over in a single meeting. Please stop!
As with any broken down “crutch phrase” it is the lazy, knee jerk reaction of an unprepared speaker. Without thought, the person at the front of the room is thinking they are cleverly buying time while they come up with their actual answer when, in reality, they are showing themselves to be a bit lost. So, what is a person to do? Well, how about a list of much better options that can be available to anyone? Here we go.
“That’s something I/we have been discussing.” It says you or your team have been thinking along the same lines, complimenting the questioner.
“I’m glad you brought that up.” Embrace the question – even if it is a bit challenging. Usually, the questioner is surprised with that response and it helps bring balance back to the dynamic in the room.
“That question reminds me of a story.” Providing an anecdote with your answer, while not always appropriate, can be a great way to underline your point.
“I knew that might be top-of-mind for some of you.” Again, it shows the speaker to be prepared and compliments the questioner.
“I’m not sure this will completely satisfy your question, but…” You’re acknowledging up front you may not have all the information or may not completely agree with the questioner and buy a little goodwill along the way.
Sure, these options don’t always come to mind at the perfect moment, but with some practice they can be very helpful. More importantly, they all are far better than that old, worn-out phrase.