What Would You Say? Part 1

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Woman walking down an alley

What Would You Say? Part 1

In the Engage section of this resource, we gave you a toolkit of techniques for dealing with difficult questions. In this activity, you’ll be presented with questions that will require you to rely on those techniques. Depending on the question, some techniques will have better results than others.
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caseID: cIntro

Each character will present a different scenario and question. Select a character to practice answering difficult questions. Feel free to try different responses and explore the results.

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Remember, these are just a few techniques you can use and they won’t always work. You’ll have to adapt in real time and adjust your approach accordingly.

caseID: c1
You are at an elementary school, dropping off your child when a parent you regularly see there comes over to you. Her child greets you formally, then darts off.
Middle aged woman
Why do American children call adults by their first name? Don’t they respect their elders?

How can you best answer this question?

  • Of course. Just like you, we strongly value our relationships with our elders. By calling them by their first name, it just shows a level of comfort with that person, which usually equates to respect.
  • Well, how do you think that is a sign of disrespect?
  • This seems to be a stereotype that comes up a lot. Children do respect their elders and usually only call adults by their first name if they’re very close.
With this response, you’ve chosen to relate to and emphasize shared cultural values. This connects the question and your answer to a shared value and highlights how you could both see things the same way. She nods her head and seems to understand where you’re coming from a bit more.

To review the Difficult Questions toolkit, and other tips on how to answer difficult questions, review section 04 – Engage: Get Out There.

With this response, you’ve chosen to ask a follow-up question. This further clarifies what the other parent is asking and perhaps why she is asking you. It can also help alleviate tension by allowing her share her feelings on the topic. She responds to your question by telling you about her cultural background and how she addressed adults when she was growing up, opening up a productive dialogue.

To review the Difficult Questions toolkit, and other tips on how to answer difficult questions, review section 04 – Engage: Get Out There.

With this response, you’ve chosen to address stereotypes. Since the question is rooted in American culture, you’ve acknowledged that stereotype and pivoted from there to address the question. She acknowledges your answer and follows up with more questions, continuing the conversation.

To review the Difficult Questions toolkit, and other tips on how to answer difficult questions, review section 04 – Engage: Get Out There.

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caseID: c2
You are out to dinner with a colleague and a few mutual acquaintances. The loudest of your colleague’s friends starts up a conversation about women.
Young man
Who would want to marry an American woman? They don’t want to clean, or cook, or even have children.

How can you best answer this question?

  • You’re free to have that viewpoint, but I don’t think it’s accurate at all.
  • That’s a stereotype that’s definitely not reflective of all American women. I’m not sure where you heard that.
  • What makes you think that American women are like that?
With this response, you’ve chosen to agree to disagree. Based on his demeanor and the situation overall, this is a good way to disengage from the conversation and avoid an escalation.

To review the Difficult Questions toolkit, and other tips on how to answer difficult questions, review section 04 – Engage: Get Out There.

With this response, you’ve chosen to address a stereotype. By doing so you acknowledged his viewpoint and the source of his information. He realizes that he seems to have hit a nerve and begins to back off.

To review the Difficult Questions toolkit, and other tips on how to answer difficult questions, review section 04 – Engage: Get Out There.

With this response, you’ve chosen to ask a follow-up question. This is not the best response, as he starts rattling off offensive stereotypes of American women he perceives to be true. This would have been a conversation to move on from as quickly as possible.

To review the Difficult Questions toolkit, and other tips on how to answer difficult questions, review section 04 – Engage: Get Out There.

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caseID: c3
You are having a conversation with a vendor at the local market. You talk to him most days that you stop to shop there and cover a lot of topics.
Middle aged man
How come all of your presidents have been Christian?

How can you best answer this question?

  • Well, America is a historically Christian country if you look back at our first American settlers. The settlers from Britain, France, and Spain all came from Christian empires, so our culture is rooted in Christianity.
  • That’s certainly been the norm, a long line of white Christian men. It took decades to elect an African American, so it’s possible for a future president to break the mold.
  • I’m not sure why this is, but do you think that’s a problem?
With this response, you’ve chosen to use examples from American history. By relying on history, you’re able to distance yourself personally from the question and focus on events and people that have influenced American culture today. He seems pleased with your answer and you continue a positive dialogue.

To review the Difficult Questions toolkit, and other tips on how to answer difficult questions, review section 04 – Engage: Get Out There.

With this response, you’ve chosen to address a stereotype and pivot to the future. You acknowledged that all presidents have been Christian and then alluded to the fact that it’s possible for a future president to have a different faith background. He seems doubtful that this could happen, but doesn’t press further on the issue.

To review the Difficult Questions toolkit, and other tips on how to answer difficult questions, review section 04 – Engage: Get Out There.

With this response, you’ve chosen to ask a follow-up question. In this case, this is not the best response. It comes across as defensive and this only seems to cause him frustration, causing the tension to escalate.

To review the Difficult Questions toolkit, and other tips on how to answer difficult questions, review section 04 – Engage: Get Out There.

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caseID: c4
You are waiting in line at a movie theater with a friend, talking about the differences in your educational experiences.
Young woman
Why are American schools so dangerous?

How can you best answer this question?

  • Well, I’m not sure I can totally agree that all American schools are dangerous. This is definitely the case for some, but in general most schools are pretty safe.
  • That’s a tough question. It varies wildly depending on where the schools are located, but I can’t really explain it.
  • Why do you have that impression? It’s true in some cases, but not all over the country. But improving schools and our education system as a whole is something we’re working on and hope to change moving forward.
With this response, you’ve chosen to agree to disagree. By using this technique, you’ve politely illuminated the fact that the two of you may not be able to agree on this topic. She seems to understand and doesn’t press further.

To review the Difficult Questions toolkit, and other tips on how to answer difficult questions, review section 04 – Engage: Get Out There.

With this response, you’ve chosen to admit you are unsure of the answer. This may not have been the best choice for this question. By doing so, you’ve given the impression that you are either not well informed or not interested in respecting your friend’s interest on an important issue.

To review the Difficult Questions toolkit, and other tips on how to answer difficult questions, review section 04 – Engage: Get Out There.

With this response, you’ve chosen to ask a follow-up question and pivot to the future. Asking a question will allow your friend to share her view of the topic and how she arrived at this judgement. Pivoting to the future directs the conversation to future goals to help avoid staying on a negative topic.

To review the Difficult Questions toolkit, and other tips on how to answer difficult questions, review section 04 – Engage: Get Out There.

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