How to React When You’re Under Verbal ATTACK!


Coaching for LawyersAvoid

Getting into a One-on-One with a Hostile Questioner

Attorneys who present at industry conferences and seminars sometimes come under attack by a shark in the room. Your impulse may be to attack back.

Don't do it. You will lose credibility with your audience if you indulge a hostile audience member. You may come across looking like a bully, even if you're not the instigator. Everyone will resent you.

Since you are in the spotlight, you need to you avoid getting defensive. Take the high road by finding something in the question with which you can agree. Show some acknowledgement by saying, " That's an important question, and I'm glad you asked it."

After acknowledging an aggressive question, do NOT turn your body to face him or her directly. Instead, move your eyes and body toward the rest of the audience.

Another tactic to avoid a verbal attack is to rephrase the question.

For example, an aggressive question might be, "Why are your services so overpriced?" You might rephrase it by saying, "This is a question about quality..."

Other useful reframing phrases include:

"This is a question about...______"

  • value.
  • long-term investment.
  • credibility.
  • feasibility.
  • resources.

You are not trying to evade the hostile question, but rather lift it out of a level of personal attack.

There's always a shark in the audience. Never take their bait.


DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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