Debate Spotlight: Get to the Heart of the Question
In last night’s town hall debate, many of the questions asked were what I call “deep” questions. On the surface, they were about policy issues – but on a deeper level, they were about personal values which connect to emotion.
Both candidates tended to go straight to the policy answer and skip the emotion behind the question, thus missing an important opportunity to connect with the listener.
Take this question from Michael Jones, for example:
QUESTION: Mr. President, I voted for you in 2008. What have you done or accomplished to earn my vote in 2012? I’m not that optimistic as I was in 2012. Most things I need for everyday living are very expensive.
Both candidates went directly to the surface question – “What have you done to earn my vote.” It would have been much more powerful for them to begin with deeper emotional questions behind the surface question.
What if Obama began his answer by saying, “I hear frustration in your voice ” And later added, “There is much reason for hope. We need your optimism!”
What if Romney began his answer by saying, “I hear disappointment in your voice.” And later added, “You have a right to feel frustrated. You can do something about it!”
The town hall format gave both candidates the opportunity not just to list policies, but to connect emotionally with the audience. Both candidates could have made better use of this opportunity.
From the Green Room: When someone asks you a question during a presentation, before you give the answer, try to get to the heart of what they are asking. This shows your expertise on two levels – your ability to answer and your ability to listen.