© 2005 Chuck Klein

Questions that usually begin with, "I heard" or "I understand," or questions that are inappropriate, embarrassing to you and/or are none of the questioner's business can sometimes prove difficult to deal with. I've always found the best way handle THE BEST OF CHUCK KLEINsuch inquisitions is, first wait a few seconds to gather your thoughts and then answer the question with a question.

Inquiries that are based on rumor, innuendo or untruths might best be handled with the question: "Where did you hear this?" Or: "What prompted this question?" Once that information has been obtained or refused, your next response might be: "In this state [pause for effect, and then say] slander is punishable by law." This reply not only puts the offender on notice that he or she could be sued for slander (a spoken statement, in the presence of another, of a false statement or statements that are damaging to a person's character or reputation), but it stops the subject matter from being perpetuated without your having to admit or deny the veracity of the information.

If you're unsure of the inquisitor's motive, simply say: "Why do you ask?" This might allow you to gain information that you might not otherwise be privy to. If the answer to your question is to the effect, "Just curious," a reply of "not a sufficient answer," again, puts the onus back on the inquisitor. If the question is one you don't wish to answer because it is none of the person's business, or could put you at a disadvantage, simply say: "I can't (or won't) comment at this time [stop, or pause, and say], but I will provide an answer when I believe you have a need to know."

THE BADGETo keep matters from escalating or generating hard feelings always speak with a smile on your face. If a questioner has the audacity to rephrase the question or demand an answer, your next comment could be a light and friendly response to the effect: "Tell you what. I'll make you a deal. You can ask me any question you want, as long as I have the right to refuse to answer any question I want." If this still doesn't register; wipe the smile off your face and look the person in the eye while saying: "The subject is closed."

One exception to these rules are personal questions (health, marital, family, etc.) asked by very close friends that you do not wish to answer. To them, simply  reply: "It's too painful to talk about, now. Could we discuss something else?" And then ask them a question or bring up a new subject. One final word: When alone in your car or other private place, practice standardizing replies for responding to boors. Hey, these tactics, most of which I've learned for seasoned business executives, police officers and detectives, have worked for me.