Whether you are in a media interview, investor pitch, sales meeting or speaking in front of a crowd, you need to know how to handle questions and get your point across calmly and effectively. 

But how do you get back on topic when a question leads you down a different path? Or when an interviewer has different intentions to you? One way is by using a bridging phrase - but beware not all bridging phrases promise an easy way to cross back over to your key messages.  

So what is a bridging phrase?

A bridging phrase helps you transition from one topic to another seamlessly (if done correctly), making them valuable for any business owner, spokesperson, salesperson or professional to have up their sleeve to use when the moment requires. 

The first part of the sentence needs to acknowledge what has been said or asked while still allowing the opportunity to change the subject or add information. The second part of the bridging phrase provides the chance to change the message while sounding as though you are about to deliver valuable information. In other words, you want a sentence that will help you bring the conversation back to what matters to your target audience. Here are some examples:  

While it has been that way...
People have said that but...
Yes, I agree though would add…
I’m not sure that is the case, let me tell you why…
We/I take a different approach…
While that has been public opinion…
That reminds me of…
While we are on the subject…
I wouldn’t say that, but what I would say is…
Let me put that in context…
To put this in perspective...
That is a common misconception…
What is more concerning is...
What I believe is...
It has been my experience that...
I have found that...
What many people don't know is...
What you may not be aware of is...
What people need to know is…
What our customers have found...
What this new research suggests...
The heart of the matter is…

While it sounds simple, mastering the art of bridging can take a lot of practice. As you converse today, look at how you naturally change the subject. Chances are you may say one of the following:

“So…”
“Anyway…”
“Keep in mind that…”
“However…”
“Chances are…”
“That said…”

Granted not all will be appropriate in a professional setting but it is essential to be in touch with your authentic voice. When you are, you can start experimenting with bridging phrases that sound like your natural voice or at least feel more natural to you.

Beware of bridging to avoid questions

If you want an example of someone using bridging phrases to avoid a line of questioning, listen to a journalist interviewing a politician. You will no doubt hear a few of their favourite bridging phrases like:

“What the most important point/issue here is…”
“What we need to remember is…”
“What we need to consider is…”
“Before I answer that I need to explain…”

When someone uses a bridging phrase to avoid a topic, it usually comes with no (or minimal) acknowledgement of the question asked. It is also undeniable that they are trying to spin things in a different direction - and generally for self-serving purposes not for the value of the target audience. While this approach can help to get some points across there is a high chance the journalist or interviewer will hit the issue harder in the next question they ask. 

While your customers may not press you like a journalist if you bridge to avoid their questions you can lose trust and credibility in their eyes.

Try reframing the question

If you come across loaded questions or more confronting objections try reframing the question in your mind to still acknowledge and answer it, but  give an answer that is more aligned with your messaging and interests. 

For example, if a customer was to question “How can you justify the price of your product when [your competitor] only charges $X?" You could reframe the question to "What value can you provide that is over and above what [your competitor] offers?" You will still answer their question but from a more powerful and positive position. 

The bottom line is you need to be prepared

To be able to bridge topics effectively you need to be prepared. Know what you want to get across, plan for questions and objections, have some bridging phrases ready and practice reframing questions and answering them from a more positive perspective.

Amanda

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