Use these 4 clever counter question methods to win time on the phone

Mit Gegenfragen gewinnen Sie Zeit. Ihr Gesprächspartner muss dann nämlich seine Ausgangsfrage begründen. Sie wissen genauer, worauf er hinaus will und können gezielter antworten. Und Sie erhalten Informationen, die Ihnen helfen, die Frage leichter zu beantworten. So stellen Sie Gegenfragen auf Englisch.

Asking intelligent counter questions is great when you feel you have been
put on the spot. It forces your counterpart to state his or her question more precisely, so you know what exactly he or she may be getting at. A good counter question also gets you the additional time you need to give a proper answer. Here are four clever ways of asking counter questions on the phone or face-to-face. Try them out next time you want to win time.

Secretary Today - Professionelles Business English für Sekretärinnen und Assistentinnen

1 Pretend you didn´t hear

Pretend you didn´t hear what the other person said. This is especially effective to deflate the situation when someone has shouted at you.

  • Sorry, I didn´t quite catch that?
  • Could you repeat it, please?
  • Err ... were you talking to me just now? I thought you were talking to someone in your office.
  • What was that you said?

2 Ask for more precise information

Ask your counterpart to make the request more precise.

  • Do you mean right after lunch, or after 4 o´clock?
  • What exactly do you mean by ´later´? Could you be a bit more precise?
  • What exactly is it that you need?
  • I´m really not sure I understand you.

3 Ask them to rephrase

If you think the person was being particularly impolite, ask them to rephrase the statement. You don´t have to be impolite yourself.

  • Could you put that another way?
  • I´m not sure I understood what you´re asking me to do?
  • Are you asking me to provide you with confidential information?
  • Are you suggesting I made a mistake in the contract?
  • Let me just check that I´ve understood this properly. You want me to send you a new consignment free of charge?

4 Put the question off

Ask if you can put the question off until later. But then make sure you get back to the person who asked the question with an answer.

  • Can I think about that for a couple of hours and get back to you?
  • I´d like to take a rain check on that, if you don´t mind?

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