Stacey Hanke

By Stacey Hanke

Three Easy Steps To Deflate The Office Naysayer

Three Easy Steps To Deflate The Office Naysayer 150 150 Stacey Hanke

Have you ever hosted a presentation only to wind up unmercifully questioned by an audience member on your data points? Perhaps you’ve tried to share a position in a meeting only to be repeatedly interrupted. Aggravating and irritating, yes, but also inevitable.

Most presenters have experienced a similar challenger and the verbal torture they subconsciously spew. They come equipped with a variety of personalities: interrupter, know-it-all, naysayer, and passive-aggressive. When they don’t feel heard, their level of challenge increases, with no intention of backing down.

It’s natural to become defensive, stop talking or give up entirely. There is a secret to understanding the challenger and making their cynical efforts work in your favor: Provide an answer that gets them to focus on your response rather than their personal feelings.

Here are four common reasons why a listener may want to toss you a challenging question:

• They are challenging your recommendation.

• They have a different opinion.

• They misunderstand what you’re saying.

• They question your value.

Ultimately, it’s a test to see how well you can manage the challenge they throw at you. It’s a diversion tactic to redirect the energy of the conversation back in their direction or to promote their ideas above yours.

When these situations arise, it’s important to reduce hostility, manage the question carefully and quickly gain understanding with your listener. One way to do that is by using the ARC method: acknowledge, respond and connect. This method acknowledges what the questioner has asked, responds to the question, and clarifies the value of the answer, all according to the listener’s benefits.

A: Acknowledge

Acknowledging any challenger only takes moments, but it creates a quick, positive impact on the situation. Let your questioner know you’re open to their concerns and are willing to listen. This demonstrates your willingness to remain open without getting defensive and irritated. Listen intently by tuning in to everything they say, their concerns, and what they seek.


Challenger: “How can we ever afford the time and money to train our staff on the new concept you’re proposing?”

Acknowledger: “I appreciate your concern for cost, especially since the company has focused its efforts on cutting costs this past quarter.”

Avoid overused phrases such as “I understand how you feel,” or “I hear what you’re saying.” These statements don’t sound sincere and feel patronizing.

R: Respond

Keep your responses brief, clear, and concise. Be specific to the question asked, and provide evidence with facts or examples to support your response.

Example: “We save you time and money by training your management staff for you. We have proven results with a variety of industries like yours.”

Avoid using negative words such as “but” and “however.” These words communicate, “You are wrong, and I am right.” The challenger’s natural response will be to fight back harder and get more defensive and insistent on their position. Instead, use the word “and” or pause between thoughts to allow a moment for your message to resonate.

C: Connect To Benefits

Connect your response to the benefits for your listener. When they acknowledge their concern, they share what they consider to be of value. Adapt your message to meet their needs, and acknowledge that you understand what they hold as important. Connect the dots between your idea and their concern to create a clear and concise benefit for them.

Example: “As a result, your management staff will gain practical ways to increase productivity. Previous clients earned a return on their investment in as little as two months after training.”

Avoid fabrications or empty promises to quiet the challenger. Ensure that whatever connection of benefits you share can be delivered as stated.

Few productive accomplishments occur when a challenger brings the heat. Instead of allowing their personality or questions to rattle you, simply listen to them intently. Then acknowledge, respond and connect the benefits of your message to their challenge. It will allow you to have a conversation rather than an argument that leaves both sides feeling frustrated and unaccomplished.