Monday, April 20, 2009

The Art of Side-stepping the Question

One workshop in particular, which I attended years ago as a real estate agent in training, was entitled something about "overcoming objections," and it came back to me as I listened to our President and our Treasury Secretary answering (or in these examples not answering) questions put to them by members of Congress.

The verbage I was taught to use when a prospective buyer was reluctant, say, to purchase a bedroom painted red, went something like: I understand how you feel and many people have felt the same way." Followed by, "Let's look at that gorgeous diningroom--wouldn't your friends be impressed by your entertaining amid such ambience !"

The trick is to deliver with confidence, what appears to be a direct answer to the question, while, on analysis, creating a subtle diversion, a side stepping, with a response that makes sense but doesn't constitute an answer.

Consider President Obama's response to a question during his March 24th briefing to the public. Question: "On Cap and Trade Policy--will you vote against it?

Obama: "I've emphasized I expect Health Care Reform to come out of this budget and also free our dependence on foreign oil."

Secretary Geithner is also skilled at this. One of his stock responses is,"I share your frustration. I feel stronger than you do." And here are his answers to some recent questions from members of Congress:

Question: On Collateralized Debt Obligations-- don't you have to deal with them"

Geithner: (no answer)

Question: You don't have to deal with CDs?

Geithner: Well, yes we do, I just don't call them CDs."

Question: There are now three Trustees to oversee voting interests in the US Treasury. One Trustee comes from the New York Fed. Did you work with one of those new trustees when you were with the New York Fed?

Geithner: I believe these individuals were selected before I left the New York Fed. I look forward to working with them."

Congress returns today. Tune in for more displays of this fascinating skill.