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Improve how you ask and answer tough questions – Insiders Barrie Cassidy interviews Finance Minister Mathias Cormann

When you need to ask or answer questions as part of your job – you can learn a lot from watching professionals in action on shows such as the ABC’s Insiders on Sundays.

Sundays are busy days for me. I usually record the show Insiders and carefully study it later. Yes, I’m a real nerd for politics and asking and answering questions.

Another great thing about Insiders is you can access the transcripts of interviews and watch videos – so you can study the actual words used. (Link at the end of this post.)

Insiders

If you ask questions – you can learn from veteran interviewer Barrie Cassidy.

He is confident enough to jump in if his interviewee isn’t answering the question asked.

The full text is accessible via the Insiders link below. I’ve highlighted the most important words to illustrate my points.

Barry Cassidy Insiders

BARRIE CASSIDY:…Are all ministers, including the outer ministry, parliamentary secretaries, the whips, are they all bound by Cabinet solidarity?

MATHIAS CORMANN: Well, I’m very confident that the Prime Minister has the unanimous support of his Cabinet. I believe he has the overwhelming support of the party room

BARRIE CASSIDY: That’s not the question.

Here’s another little “trick” I often share with young reporters or even experienced reporters I help.

If you want a softer approach, say something like:

(delivered in a softer, friendly way) So back to the question…(then repeat the question) are ministers all bound by Cabinet solidarity?

OR:

So, please help us understand – then repeat the original question – are ministers all bound by Cabinet solidarity?

If YOU are answering questions and you get challenged that you are not answering the question:

In my opinion, Mathias to his credit, continues with his message says that he will get to answering the question and he goes on to repeat the message he wants to get across about his confidence in the Prime Minister and unanimous support/overwhelming support.

Barrie lets Mathias know he expects an answer to the question.

Mathias “sort of” answers the question in an indirect way – that it’s a secret ballot so everyone can do “as they see fit”.

It’s a long answer and a host could “tidy it up” for the audience – with something like:

(repeating the key words) So it’s a secret ballot. People can do as they see fit. So you’re saying people are NOT bound by cabinet solidarity. Have I got that right?

Anyway, here’s Mathias’s long answer.

In my opinion, a host’s job is to not only ask questions and make sure questions are answered, but to sometimes tidy up, summarise and clarify a long, convoluted answer.

MATHIAS CORMANN: Let me get to it. I’m very confident that the Prime Minister has the unanimous support of the Cabinet and, indeed, again Malcolm Turnbull confirmed again today that he will be voting against the spill, as will Julie Bishop, as have a range of other Cabinet colleagues have of course indicated over the last few days.

It will be a secret ballot, so that obviously gives everyone the opportunity to do things as they see fit, but I’m very confident that the Cabinet unanimously supports the Prime Minister and that the party room overwhelmingly supports the Prime Minister continuing in his role.

So if you are answering questions and if you get challenged that you are not answering a question.

1. Calmly state that you will get to it and then
2. repeat words you want to emphasise – in this case above – confidence and overwhelming support.

TBMM.001

These are my opinions based on my experience. Please feel free to comment or add your views in the comments section below.

And here’s a link to Insiders. It really is worth watching to see how professionals ASK and ANSWER questions.

Insiders – Mathias Cormann interview

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TB LL mosaic

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I blog about fun pop culture stuff as well as more serious business communication tips.

@tonybiancotti
Linked In – under Tony Biancotti
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These days, lots of people and organisations need help with how to COPE with too much work, too much information, too many meetings, delivering difficult news, business writing, effective e-mail, e-mail overload, cross-cultural communication, better social media engagement etc. I like to help people COPE.

TBCope.001

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