How to Handle People Who Don’t Give Straight Answers

Ulterior motives often influence the way that certain people answer certain questions.

As people learn to be more sly, they’ll realize that simply refusing to answer questions can get them into just as much trouble as voicing the painful truth. Those listening, can make assumptions based on one’s lack of desire to answer a certain tough question.

More often than not, a reluctance in answering a question in a clear, precise, and forward manner points to the answer being an unpleasant one. Sometimes a truthful answer may be dangerous to a campaign, a corporate strategy, or the pride of the person answering certain questions. People who fear the effects of an answer can begin to employ unobvious ways of getting around a requirement to provide that answer.

Those who become skilled in sidestepping certain questions and master avoiding answering them are difficult to get a grasp on. They, by all intents and purposes, become slippery in their social relations with other individuals.

A master at sidestepping questions will leave you baffled – but only after they’ve already moved on from the matter at hand. As you learn to analyze the answers that they gave, you’ll begin to realize that they in fact said nothing of substance. They’d successfully make you believe that you received an answer to a question you posed, whilst shooting blanks your way.

This article hopes to provide some pointers on how to deal with people who sidestep questions.

The goal here is to provide guidance on how to get a solid grasp on slippery individuals in your day to day interactions.


The Pillars of a Question

Asking questions is a behavior of eliciting specified types of information. Detailed, descriptive answers can only be elicited with questions which are detailed and descriptive in their own right.

Each question that you ask is structured by way of foundational pillars which are then aesthetically added to and connected with vocabulary.

Without any one of these pillars, the question would completely lose its meaning. The pillars of a question thereby, are defined by subject matter which a question depends on to elicit the type of answers that you seek. Their presence is a requirement to receive the information which you’re looking for.

For example, as your dog walker comes walking through the front door with your happy dog, you may want to know if your dog barked at people who passed by on their bikes during their walk today. The pillars of your question, thereby, would be:

  • Your dog
  • Barked
  • Bike Riders
  • Today

Without including these pillars in a question that you decide to pose to the dog walker, your question would elicit vagueness, and would likely be misinterpreted. The question you come up with thereby, would sound something like this, “Did the dog bark at people who rode their bikes today?”

If you were to just ask: “Did the dog bark?” in an effort to know whether the dog barked specifically at people riding bikes, you’d get an imprecise answer. The dog walker may say, “yes,” thinking that you inquired into whether the dog barked at all, rather than specifically at bike riders.

If you were to ask: “How was the dog with bike riders today?” then you’d leave space for an answer which may not include information on barking. The dog walker may reply, “Today was better!”

With that answer, you wouldn’t know whether the dog actually barked or not. You’d only learn that today, its behavior was a bit better.

A question which is posed with all the necessary pillars in place, looks for answers to address every pillar of that specific question. If you properly asked the dog walker, “Did the dog bark at people riding bikes today?” then you would expect an answer which is specific to the dog barking at people on bikes today. You wouldn’t be satisfied with an answer saying the dog was, “good,” or that it didn’t bark at children. You’d look for information specific to the pillars upon which your question was built.

People who don’t give straight answers to questions sidestep the pillars your questions are built on. They may address some, or most, of the pillars that support your questions, but will never address all of them in one answer.

The willful ignorance toward even one of the pillars that your question is built on, will leave unnecessary room for interpretation in the answers that people give. They’d be able to get away with seemingly answering your questions without delivering definite information for you to find value in.

When asking important questions, ensure to be cognizant of the pillars that your questions are built on. Know the most important pieces which comprise your questions, and thereby which pieces a potential answer should include in its delivery. If people make it a habit to sidestep certain pillars, you’d need to intervene and ask for a reiterated answer from the individual in question.

Get the document of cases / examples which demonstrate the methods outlined in this article:
See the details of the downloadable document here.


Handling People Who Don’t Give Straight Answers

As you notice people conveniently fail to address certain critical pillars of the questions that you pose, you may decide to intervene and reiterate your questions. A thing to remember in your attempts of doing so, is to not exude an essence of catching them doing something sneaky. Don’t make it seem like you’ve, “figured them out,” or, “caught them red handed.” Doing so will decrease your chances of hearing an honest answer more than it would encourage it.

Placing blame on yourself seems to be the safest, and seemingly most effective, route in getting someone to answer a question more precisely.

The blame you place on yourself, would be in the form of criticizing the question that you posed. Though your question may have been clear and direct, place unnecessary blame on your, perhaps subpar, method of delivering it. This way, you’ll have a chance to ask the same question again and would place pressure on the listener to adjust their answer more fittingly.

If they still fail to hit on the pillars of the question that you pose, then it’ll be time to specifically inquire into the pillars they ignore. Do so without looking down on your listener’s tendency to conveniently not infuse their answer with specifics. Make it seem like you’re oblivious to their alleged attempts to slip out of a requirement to hit on certain issues.

For instance:

Your question:

“Hey John, it seems that some patient records were updated over the weekend. Was your team doing any patient information imports over the weekend?”

  • Patient records
  • Updated
  • John’s team imports
  • Over the weekend

John’s answer:

“Yeah it was likely us, I remember my team mentioning that they wanted to make some updates via imports during system downtime over the weekend.”

(Patient records were not addressed.)

Your response:

“Can you please confirm if those records were patient records? We have some end users confused as to how some information was updated.”

Allowing John’s answer to stand after his initial response would leave space for confusion. John’s team may have updated department records, rather than patient records. Your attribution of the work being attributed to John’s team could result in the misattribution of issues, or the misallocation of praise.

When addressing the pillars that people miss addressing in their answers, don’t reference their possibly deliberate act of missing information. A response akin to, “You didn’t tell me if they were patient records,” would sound accusatory.

Be precise in your rebuttal to others’ indirect answers to your questions. Simply address the pillars of your questions that they’ve missed. If they go on to keep missing the target, analyze how deeply you should press for a more precise answer. Try once or twice, then move on. Refrain from providing opinionated dialogue when doing so. See yourself being on a mission to simply address all the pillars of the questions that you asked.

Get the document of cases / examples which demonstrate the methods outlined in this article:
See the details of the downloadable document here.

Read our analyses of current events by becoming a subscriber.

Disclaimer of Opinion: This article is presented only as opinion. It does not make any scientific, factual, or legal claims in any way.