“That’s a Great Question”

by | Mar 10, 2017

In America, a common initial response to a question is “that’s a great question” or “that’s a really good question.” We hear this over and over, often in response to questions that are not all that great or are pretty obvious.  I’ve been observing this is a common initial response to questions we ask investment managers.  For example:

Me: “What fees do you charge and what are your account minimums?”

Investment Manager: “Great question . . . . ”

Was that really a great question?  No. It’s an obvious, basic question you should ask any investment manager.

So, why do people respond with “that’s a great question” prior to answering a question?

There are multiple proposed reasons:

  1. To serve as a “bridge” – meaning that the answer-er wants to change the course of the questioning to a path they’d rather take in answering. They acknowledge the question asked and then provide an answer to a different question (a common tact of politicians).
  2. The answer-er wants to buy some  time to think about the answer before responding.
  3. It flatters the person asking the question, which makes the questioner more receptive to the answer.

These proposed reasons are likely subconscious and are learned behaviors.

Interestingly, responding to a question with “that’s a great question” and the like appears to be an American thing.  Research of U.S. and U.K. interviews finds that “that’s a great question” it is rarely a response  in the U.K. and has been on the rise over the past several years in the U.S.

Source: http://freakonomics.com/podcast/thats-a-great-question-a-new-freakonomics-radio-podcast/


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