Loaded questions usually carry some form of presumed fault. Here's an example: "Why didn't so-and-so provide us a project update on time?"
When someone -- project team member, stakeholder or client -- asks you such a question, how do you react? Do you answer it directly or do you try to defend yourself or your team, escalating the situation further?
In my opinion, the fastest and most effective way to respond to a loaded question is to address its underlying concern. When you address the issue rather than what is being asked on the surface, you create a safe environment where a person is understood.
Recently, I was in a situation where my first reaction was to defend myself and completely bash the opposing view. I stepped back and looked for their concern about the incident that occurred rather than jumping into defense mode.
As a result, I was able to see more clearly why in this situation, the project process was defined the way it was, without pushing my own agenda. Instead of seeing holes in the process, I started seeing what actions I needed to take. When I acknowledged this to the person that raised the question, the original concern disappeared for both of us.
The next time someone asks you a loaded question, answer the concern and not the question. The original issue may simply disappear.
Think about a recent encounter with a project team member or stakeholder where you may have gotten a bit defensive. What would be different in that situation if you listened for the concern behind what they were saying?
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