“I Don’t Accept Your Premise” (AKA Strategies for Responding, Not Reacting)

Some of you (but likely not too many—it was August after all) may have noticed there was no Wow last week.

Those of you who did notice likely thought, “Huh….she’s probably doing something vacation-like…”

In fact, I took last week off after taking a verbal shellacking from an audience member—a confrontation from which it took awhile to regain my equilibrium.

Given that speaking to audiences is what I do for a living, I was surprisingly thrown by what occurred.

And while I was able to remember some of my own good advice about responding and not reacting, there were certainly things I could have done better.

Given that, I thought I’d put together a few thoughts on what to do should you find yourself in a similar situation.

One of which (which I did not do) is to:

Question their premise: In my case, what occurred was that an audience member stepped out during a 10-minute break and did ‘research’ on my topic on his cell phone. Returning to the room he felt he’d acquired the authority to question everything I had said to date. Here’s what I forgot to say, “I don’t accept your premise…” While this is not appropriate in every situation, it is sometimes the case. The tricky bit is that we are often so dumbfounded by the illogical nature of what’s occurring that we become illogical, too. Given that, remember:

Silence is your friend: Again, we are often so startled by what’s happening that we jump in with both feet. A far better strategy is to allow your questioner’s statement/comment to simply sit there “like a turd in a punchbowl.” (Please note: this phrase comes to you courtesy of my brother. While I find it revolting, it also makes me laugh—which is a great thing to be able to do when emotions are running high.)  Having found your equilibrium, you then want to be able to:

Pivot: While I failed miserably with regard to points one and two, I was able to remember the third. In my case, I pivoted the conversation to, “Here’s what you can do when you’re verbally assaulted by an audience member. Lean in, maintain eye contact, continue to breathe, keep a conversational tone…” Etc, etc.

While I don’t wish a situation of this kind on any of you, I hope the above information stands you in good stead should you find yourself on the receiving end of unpleasantness.