Politicians are like stage magicians, using verbal sleight of hand to redirect inconvenient questions toward preferred talking points. And people rarely notice, let alone mind.
In a study at Harvard Business School by Todd Rogers and Michael Norton, people watched or listened to snippets of political debates and rated how much they liked and trusted the speakers. Going way off-topic (from terrorism to healthcare) lost the politicians points, but straying to a similar issue (from the illegal drug problem to healthcare) did not. In fact, subtle segues often made listeners forget the question. What's more, people preferred speakers who digressed slightly and spoke smoothly over those who answered directly but let off ums and uhs. Style over substance.
Kevin Daley, founder of Communispond, Inc., offers several tips on how to evade unwanted inquiries:
"People can predict most questions that will be asked of them if they are in the hot seat," Daley says. Write them down and rehearse your answers.
Repeating the question buys you a few seconds of thought. Rephrasing it lets you add your own spin.