Using the owner of the San Francisco 49ers as an extremely poor example, you will learn how to deftly and skillfully deal with putdowns and putdown questions in this article and video, which is a key part of learning verbal self defense.
Two weeks ago, the owner of the San Francisco 49ers, Jed York, dismissed the head coach and general manager of the team. He announced this news at a press conference, where the press, sensing his lack of confidence and competence, subsequently ripped him to shreds like a bunch of savages.
Look at these brutal questions he was asked (and note that they just call him “Jed” and not “Mr. York”):
Reporter: “Jed, why are you competent to lead a search for a general manager and a head coach?
Reporter: “Jed why shouldn’t YOU be dismissed or reassigned?”
How he answered wasn’t important, because frankly, it was painful to watch, but let’s just say the 49er faithful were not reassured.
These questions are what I call “putdown questions”. They’re not just idle questions, they’re questions meant to question your competence, your abilities, your skills, and to put you on the defensive.
Putdown questions are meant to make you justify yourself to the other person, and they are very difficult questions to answer.
However, these are questions you cannot avoid in life.
You will encounter putdowns in job interviews.
In business, you will always get putdown questions.
Even with your friends and family, you will also get putdowns and putdown questions. They are a fact of life, and they happen more often than we would like.
So, if you want to thrive in life, especially in high-stakes situations, you must learn how to handle putdowns and putdown questions skillfully. Learning how to deal with putdown and putdown questions are a key component of verbal self defense.
Here are two ways to crush these types of insidious questions, taken from my book ” The New Art of Being Right: 38 Ways To Win An Argument In Today’s World “.
The first technique is called “setting the table”, which is reshaping the frame of the question from one that disfavors you to one that favors you.
In particular, for the question “Jed, why are you competent to lead a search for a general manager and a head coach?”, the best way to handle it is to reframe or change the frame of the question from an OBJECTIVE frame to a SUBJECTIVE frame. Reframing is a key tactic in verbal self defense.
What I mean by this is that instead of answering the question by giving a laundry list of reasons why you are competent and letting the press answer (which is an extremely stupid way to answer this type of question), you will answer it by defining “competence” from your OWN perspective.
So, this is how I would answer this putdown question:
Once you have defined competence according to YOUR own definition, then your answer becomes bulletproof and it becomes much harder for someone to argue against. That makes for outstanding verbal self defense!
The second technique is called “find one instance to the contrary”, which means finding just one situation or exception to the argument laid out by the other person.
So, for the question “Jed, why shouldn’t YOU be dismissed or reassigned?”, the best way to handle it is to find one exception.
Fortunately, there are a million exceptions since Jed York is the owner of the team, and there has never been an owner that has ever been dismissed from his team.
So, here’s how I would answer this question:
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Min Liu is a corporate lawyer, Amazon #1 bestselling author, and the founder of The Art of Verbal War, where people learn to EXCEL in verbal skills. Based in San Francisco, CA, Min's burning ambition is to teach like-minded people how to give their gifts and value to the world by helping them become EXCEPTIONAL in verbal skills, persuasion, influence and power. In the words of his readers, he's the "older brother you've never had", and as a real-life big brother himself, his mission is to show you the ropes in all the things school never taught you.