Top Tips for Answering Negative Questions
There are two kinds of negative questions and different situations you will encounter with these negative questions.
1. NEGATIVE CONTRACTION QUESTIONS
The first type of questions are those that use contractions like won’t (will + not), don’t (do + not), Isn’t (is + not) or aren’t (are + not).
These negative questions can be confusing and difficult to know how to answer. The person asking usually has an opinion, thought or emotion with regards to the question before they ask. Sometimes they already know the answer or they expect a specific response.
How to Answer
Generally speaking, yes is used when you are answering positively, and no is used when answering negatively, for example: “Yes, I am” or “No, I am not.”
But let’s look at the context of a situation where these negative questions are asked to help you understand better.
1) Being Polite
“Won’t you sit down?”
This question is used as an invitation. The speaker is being polite, as if actually asking “Do you want to sit down?”
You can answer with a simple yes or no, but in this polite situation you could answer by saying something else in an equally polite way, like;
“Thank you, that is very nice of you.” or…
“No thank you, I have to get going”
2) Looking for agreement
“Isn’t it healthier to eat fruit than sweets?”
When someone asks a negative question like this, it implies he or she already knows the answer. The person expects a yes response and is looking for you to agree with them.
Although a simple ‘yes’ should be understood, it is a good idea to use a complete sentence and say something like;
“Yes, it is healthier to eat fruit,” and you could even add “I agree with you.”
“Don’t you like bananas?”
This question might be asked when a person expects one thing but something else happens.
If you were given a fruit salad, and you did not eat the banana, the speaker would ask “Don’t you like bananas?” because he or she thought you liked them and is surprised that you do not.
A question is often asked this way, because the speaker wants more information. So when you answer;
“No, I don’t like bananas,” you can give more information with your answer and add something, like;
“… because they upset my stomach.” Now they have all the information.
4) Nagging with Annoyance or Concern
“Aren’t you going to do the dishes?”
In this context it is used as surprise but also to express annoyance or to nag someone to get them to do something.
The person asking the question was expecting the dishes to be washed, so is surprised that they are not, but also wants you to do them.
“Don’t you need to leave?”
A person might ask you this if you were supposed to go somewhere but had not left yet and they are concerned. It is a way of telling you that you need to leave. Perhaps reminding you of something you forgot to do.
In these situations, an answer is generally required from the person asking. If they do want an answer, it would be something like;
“Yes, I am going to do the dishes” or…
“Yes, I have to leave!”
Either way, if you answer or not, they expect you to ‘wash the dishes’ or ‘leave’.
Just Remember… More information
In the end, it can still be very confusing when you are new to learning the language. Whether you answer “yes” or “no”, the best way to avoid a misunderstanding is to always give more information and use full sentences when you answer. This way there will be no confusion with the person who asked you the question.
2. NEGATIVE INTERVIEW QUESTIONS
The second type of questions are those asked in job interviews by hiring managers to see any self-doubt or strong emotion you may have. It is a way to judge how you handle pressure and to test your confidence. It is not always easy to know how to answer these questions either.
How to answer
Obviously, in a job interview you want to show off your skills and strengths. Negative questions might throw you off, because you will have to talk about yourself in a negative way.
But you should look at them as an opportunity to show how you have grown and what you have learned. Nobody is perfect, everybody makes mistakes. What is important is how you deal with mistakes and difficult situations to improve yourself.
Let’s look at what you should focus on when answering these negative questions, with some examples on how to approach answering them.
1) Turn Negatives into Positives
“What is your biggest weakness?”
A popular question in an interview. The hiring manager is not that interested in what your weakness actually is. They ask this question to see how prepared you are as well as your honesty and self-awareness.
First of all, avoid using a strength masked as a weakness, like “I am a perfectionist” or “I work too hard.” These do not show you are truly aware of your faults and have been over-used in interviews.
Be truthful and humble. Admitting your flaws makes you human and relatable. The key is to show that you are aware of your weakness and are committed to improving yourself.
Don’t spend too long talking about the weakness. Mention it briefly, then make sure you focus attention on what you have learned and how you are growing and improving.
Also be careful not to share a flaw that will weaken your chances. For example, if you are interviewing for a job in sales, it is probably not a good idea to admit your weakness is public speaking.
2) Keep it Professional
“How do you deal with conflict or difficult situations at work?”
The hiring manager or interviewer will ask a question like this to find out about your social and relationship skills. They want to know how you might fit in with the team or handle customers and clients. This question is also a test to find out whether you take responsibility or blame others.
It is important not to get personal or say anything bad about anyone. Avoid personality conflicts or talking about a specific person. Instead, focus on the job itself; the process or system that caused the conflict or difficulty. Then focus on what you did or the personal skills you used to help improve the situation.
Your answer should show that you are understanding and try to see other people’s opinions and points of view; that you are able to keep calm and diffuse situations while at the same time remaining firm and confident.
3) Focus on achievements
“Why haven’t you achieved more in your career?”
With this question, the interviewer is more interested in how you handle the question and not the actual reason behind why you have not achieved more.
Do not focus on what you have not done or how you feel you should have achieved more. Instead, draw attention to the successes you have experienced in your career and how that shows what you have to offer.
Then talk about your plans, how you see your career developing, showing that you have given thought to your future and the goals you want to achieve.
Negative interview questions are designed to challenge you, to show what kind of person you really are and how you handle the question. Do not panic and remain calm. Be prepared and have answers and examples ready, to show the interviewer that you are self-aware and always trying to better yourself.
For unexpected questions and no prepared response, just remember to be honest and keep the language and emotion professional. Find a way to turn negatives into positives and focus on the best parts of yourself and the skills that you can offer them.
HOW TO ACE YOUR NEXT INTERVIEW?
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