Six Reasons to Avoid "That’s A Good Question"

Quick, what do you say when you get a tough question? One that makes you think. Or squirm. Odds are pretty good that when you feel stumped, you will respond with a quick, "That's a good question." While many people respond that way, you'll notice a trained professional rarely does. Why not? Here are six good reasons why you should avoid this phrase:

1.  It's not a good question. It made you uncomfortable, and everyone in the room knows it. Frequently, when I hear speakers say “That's a good question,” it is followed by a lot of hemming and hawing, evidence that the question stumped them.

2.  The audience doesn't hear the question in your words. Sometimes they don't hear it at all. All they hear is that it was a good question, and then your answer, which may or not make sense without hearing the question. Imagine this exchange. "That's a good question, and I'm really glad you asked. No. No way. That could never happen. Next question please." Huh?

3. It looks like you are stalling for time. Which you are, but why call attention to it? Instead of “That's a good question,” try restating the question in abbreviated form. That also buys you time and seems more reflective.

4. It didn't demonstrate that you heard the question. And maybe you didn't. Let alone understand it. You can tack “That's a good question” to practically any question without even hearing it. If you don't seem to be listening, an antagonistic audience member is going to become even more irate.

5. It isn't especially respectful. It seems like a canned answer, which it is. If you want to show respect, try restating the question or using a neutral bridge such as, "The question is about maximizing our investment" or whatever the question was actually about. This shows respect and proves you listened and understood the question.

6. You appear to be grading the questions. Pity the poor person who doesn't hear theirs was a good question. Or the awkward pause you end up with when you realize “That's a good question” will sound wrong after a really bad one. Better to not rely on this weak phrase, but instead to restate the question or use a neutral bridge before answering.

That is my list of six reasons NOT to use “That's a good question.” What do you think? Do you use this phrase? If not, what do you say instead? And if you have been using neutral bridges, how are they working for you?