We hear it constantly, in response to a question, a person responds with the statement “That is a good question.” What the response is intended to do is to give the person time to formulate an appropriate response; it is “think time.” Instead, imagine a situation in which the proper response was “That is a bad question”! Of course, that is never said even though it may be the truth – it was, indeed, a bad question! While you are formulating your response, try to use a different stalling tactic instead of the “That is a good question.” Vary the response with subsequent questions. It is perfectly acceptable to say, “Please give me a moment,” “Let me think about that,” or something similar. These alternative statements accomplish three things: First, they avoid the “that is a good question” overused response. Second, it indicates that you are formulating a thoughtful response. Third, it validates the question which helps the ego of the questionnaire. The few words that you say before you factually respond may be the most important part of your response; they show you are taking the question seriously and are going to provide a thoughtful response.
Another response may be even better, repeat the question in your own words, followed by something like “Did I understand your question correctly?” Once again, you are buying some time, but more importantly, you are showing that you are directly engaged and, hopefully, will be answering the right question.
As soon as the question is asked, quickly attempt to determine why the question was asked. For example, does the inquirer genuinely want to learn something, or are they trying to test your knowledge, or are they trying to show you their knowledge about the subject? Understanding their intent will help you set the tone and address the underlying issue that may be more important than the question itself. If the questioner was trying to impress you and others with their knowledge, let them win or at least save face.
Finally, if you don’t know, say you don’t know. It is OK to be human. Most of us are!