Strategy for Very Familiar Questions

By Chris Crouch

OK, I was trying to be somewhat nice in the title. This article is really about answering those questions that you have heard hundreds or perhaps thousands of times. Questions that make you think, “If I have to answer that question one more time, I might just go crazy!”

As a matter of fact, the strategy I am going to discuss probably works best on what you might categorize as stupid questions you find yourself answering over and over. Yes, I am fully aware of the fact that some people like to say, “Well, there is no such thing as a stupid question you know!” I’m not so sure about that.

Unfortunately, I happen to know from personal experience that there are, in fact, stupid questions. For example, years ago I bought a Prince brand tennis racquet. I pulled the racquet out of the protective cover, looked at the large branded “P” on the strings and said to my wife, “I wonder how they get this letter to come out so nice and uniform when they stretch the strings?”

After several moments of laughter, she informed me that there was a pretty good chance that they painted the big “P” on the racquet AFTER they stretched the strings. It was one of those “duh” moments for me. Not necessarily a good thing to admit if you are a trainer and consultant. I promise not to offer any advice on anything to do with tennis. She still likes to occasionally, shall we say, help me stay humble by reminding me of that particular question I posed to her more than 20 years ago.

Here’s what you do if a client asks you a question that you’ve already heard and responded to hundreds of times. Act as if you have never heard the question. Cock your head to the side, stroke your chin with your thumb and index finger, tighten your lips, narrow your eyebrows and pause a moment seemingly in deep concentration. Since you have heard and responded to the question hundreds of times, after the dramatic pause you can casually respond with one of the most logical, well thought out, articulate answers they have ever heard in their life. It’s a total win-win strategy.

The client wins because they feel good about asking a question that almost stumped the expert (in other words, they feel like a smart person). You win because you come across as a person capable of thinking very quickly on your feet.

I recently read a story about a woman who had dinner on separate occasions with two brilliant men running for political office. After the first dinner she said, “After dining with him, I felt as if I had dined with the cleverest man in the world.” After dinner with the second man she said, “After dining with him, I felt as if I was the cleverest person in the world.” Guess which man won the election? Or is that a stupid question?

Chris Crouch is CEO of DME Training and Consulting and author of several books on improving productivity. Contact him through