+Scott Watson

Saturday, 6 March 2010

Please Just Answer the Question

For those of you based in the UK, you will be familiar with the BBC's popular mid-week politics programme 'Question Time' presented by an highly respected journalist.

For those of you not familiar with the show, in brief, it's a live studio audience (always a good thing - checking that the audience is 'a live') who put questions and allegations to an 'expert' panel. The panel may consist of politicians from the 3 major parties, an independent, such as an economist or leading charity figure and many others.

Now on this occasion, the show was to be broadcast from the city of Blackburn, and the audience wasn't the usual mix of frustrated adults, it consisted entirely of teenage school children from Blackburn. And one member of the audience was a 15 year old girl whose family I have known for many years. And she had a question. A pretty good one too.

What happens next is something that, if you experience, I expect you don't enjoy or appreciate. Personally I find it rude and disrespectful. Here's what happened.

Her point related to what she perceived as an imbalance in caring for troops in Iraq and Afghanistan who, were fighting a war which, perhaps they don't support, but are legally obligated to fight. Here's the point she made to the panel after being advised of the funds a friend of hers received for her private education.

'Why is it that a child receives over £6,000 for private education when soldiers are dying because they haven't got the correct protective clothing and equipment?'

A straightforward, pointed question deserving of an answer from at least one panel member. A question that, having been answered honestly and fully, could have provided some context regarding the benefits certain soldiers have due to their rank or length of service. Yes, somehow linking private education with the loss of a human life would be difficult, but perhaps a link worth exploring - especially to an audience who in future years will decide who they trust the most (or mis-trust the least) to lead Britain.

The response from the presenter/facilitator was brief. An acknowledgement of the question....and then on to the next subject.

What is it like for you when you ask a question and the person decides to evade, talk fluff or refuse to answer the question altogether? Does this happen at work? Why do some people say that they welcome your views/opinion and thoughts and then simply by-pass the very point they made?

When this happens in the workplace, people become dis-engaged, mis-trusting and to some extent, not caring anymore. It's time to lead by example and answer honestly the tough questions that sometime pop up.

If you type Jeremny Paxman and Michael Howard into YouTube you'll see this standard at its very best. Just look what happens when the politician evades the question....and the pit bull terrier of a journalist won't let him escape.

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