« Freakonomics Radio

192. That’s a Great Question!

2015-01-15 | 🔗

Verbal tic or strategic rejoinder? Whatever the case: it’s rare to come across an interview these days where at least one question isn’t a “great” one.

This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
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Thanks to Pennsylvania, lottery, scratch, ass, pennsylvanians or scratching their way to fine and with new every month, big top rises and second chance, drawings, excitements, always in order. so try, Pennsylvania, lottery, scratch, offer your ticket to fund and get yours today keep on scratch. It must be eighteen or older. Please pay responsibly benefits older pennsylvanians every day, if you like to listen to for economic radio without ads the police. Do that is sticker premium five dollars a month, and you can get a free month trial by going to stick your premium dot com and use a promo code freak. You also get access to all our bonus. Episodes and you'll be supporting our show to that sticker premium, dot, com, promo code, freak banks, we ve been doing this for a while now and I noticed a trend, yeah! That's a good question, so that's a good question is a very good question. So is it a question,
look, I'm gonna be honest with the most the questions we ask. Aren't really all that great, but it's like theirs. verbal ticked going around. Well here s. Another good question: that's a really good question. Could question great question great question, good question, so those are good. Questions could be sorted out and you know who has a stick, really bad great question. Yet Steve love it. You know Steve levity. Sancho! Do that's great question. Love! It's mine, economics framing Co. Author he's an economist, universes Chicago Levitt. You finish, for quite a while. Now haven't you that's a good question and you seem to think that when it comes to what makes a good question. Absolutely no topic is off limits when you say that you good Christian. Yet it is true that people like that to have gotten to walk around a lot and eat fish grass, Some of it do you have any recollection of saying that same phrase about two hundred
something you know you're doing, That's good! Question I'm here from W and my see this is freedom mix- radio. The package that explores the hidden side of everything: here's your host, Stephen governor That's a great question. I've heard this over and over and over the last several years, not just on our show European
all kinds of media interviews during the two and a portion of tat conferences, academic conferences, but just because I've heard a lot doesn't mean much. We did professional help is Erika Oakland's. I'm a linguist and I write fundamental flaws and awkward knows several languages. I speak about six faking it level, so I go for a while and have you have you convinced until you bring up something? I've never talked about before And then it falls apart for the purpose of this discussion were sticking to English and the free. Is were discussing today. That's a great question. I started looking into it has really been on the rise. Ok, so how do you figure this out? It's kind of to measure that, because it's hard to find a corpus of data that will show spoken language overtime. That way, you can't look for it and Google books.
There's something because people don't normally right this phrase but open was able to find a couple big collections of spoken language data. One of them is the British national courts. this: that's a one. Hundred million were database, which includes transcripts of everyday conversation as well as government meetings, the interviews and so on, and I did a search on them. Is there, and it would only showed up thirty five times in the corpus of like a hundred million words and a lot of those instances where fiction, so it wasn't too common over there. And then I took a look at the Corpus of contemporary American English and there it was over a thousand times and me stood. The instances were interviews on CNN nor NPR or different dumb one on one interview situations, There was an expert being interviewed about something so
definitely seems to be more of an american thing in the House and the Senate. They both say they want to ass a bill by next week. The big question: what happens if they dont? Well, that's a good question: does this bomb pulled up? Do you think that's a good question. That's a good question tat, say very good, She s, a very good question about. You know it's a good question: why has that not been enough to get him off to Africa and taxes? This is a real. good question: where does Eric open think this habit has come from? looking around for it. I found that it's actually an explicit part of media and pr training. I think it's still on the rocks at Bill Mcgowan. He does media and pr training for ceos athletes, artists, even the best men at weddings. His company is called clarity. Media group and you wrote a book called pitch perfect, had a say it right, the first time. Every time Mcgowan says something
I'll say that's a great question to serve as what's called a bridge. The bridge is what happens when the person You mean you asking you. Questions wants to go down, one conversational road, you use it as a way to go from a potentially dangerous question back to your talking points back to the point you to make. You don't know anything about what lies. That road or you don't want to talk about that subjects. You have a different. social. Won't you wanna go down, so you need a bridge to get from one road to the other. That's a good question is one of the phrases that allow you to do that you get the question. You say, that's a good question. It buys you a little time and then you just jump right in with the point you wanted to make, and often people don't notice that you haven't dealt with the question nor responded to the question
It s! A really good question is the most elementary bridge possible would bill Miguel. says: it's elementary means really elementary I did a training for a non profit organization, and I had to roll as the interviewer with five or six of them, and there was one gentleman who sat in the chair and he started every single answer with That's really a question, even when I asked him so how You ve been with this organization, you know. Well, that's really. Your question and I had to stop men say now is actually not a good question. That's a really terrible question is, does the conversations and he saw the absurdity of starting his answer with that
it was absurd because it become such a habit lost its meaning. Nearly all of us have some kind of linguistic tick. Some go to phrase we probably dont even know we use. I for instance, begin way too many sentences. With so as in so what have we learned so far or so? what Mcgowan is really saying here, or so? Even President Obama uses a verbal, bring he has to work He uses dad accomplished the same one of them is look well locker, either via the nature, and the look means she's trying convey it as let me be frank with you, the other wordy users was, I I think some you saw when I was and winning
you here. Look or listen, commanded, the president's bout. That means he is no longer answering your question. He is answering his question, but look and listen or not The only bridges used by President Obama was a great question and, I was raised so what exactly is saying that the great question meant to accomplish? I think people do it because I think it This is two things simultaneously. It allows the stall for time and it flat where's the interviewer it for keeping the good vibes go and we're friends here, work you're, asking good! questions, I'm given good answers and keep the good feeling going and things like. That's a good question. Look the point, is what I'm saying is all of these phrases. Are there met a discourse phrases? They don't have to do with the content of the discussion or the things that you're talking about their about that.
GOSH in itself and what do is lay out a map or a path for the people. Listening to the discussion nor the people involved in the discussion, so you say yes, the argument is the point is, and you can do That lay out these little pebbles when the disks and actually isn't going that way, but you the illusion that this is what's happening and when you are actually in the discussion you get, the feeling points are being made and important things are being brought up and good questions are being asked, even if they might not be, in other words, as Erika currencies things its linguistic b s any phrase like that: start somewhere and then people pick up on it. People start using sincerely and if it works well, it starts to become a crutch or a tick, and then people start to notice it
they start to hated and complain about it. I believe that saying that's really good question is about as outdated a tick a strategy as telling people to envision the audience in their underwear but not everyone has soured on the phrase coming up on for economics, radio, Steve Levitt reveals another purpose it serves. I think that's one very strong pieces of shame. the great question is really just acknowledgement that someone who sort of in the background is actually doing something. That's cool interesting war or challenging and will you from someone who really does try to ask great questions. There would be clearly not of me to say that I don't think about the crap out of the question. I think about it. A lot
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from W and Y see this is for economics, radio, here's your host Stephen Governor, the media, coach kill Mc Gowan things that people should stop saying that the great question things it's nothing more than a cheap, flattery or stall for time. Some people do use the phrase strategically. Andy Kessler is a former headphone manager. You now writes about honor, your ship in a recent wall. Street journal column, Kessler wrote about a trick. He admires used by Silicon Valley, entrepreneurs at board meetings when an investor or outside board member asks a stupid quest, Kessler Rights, the CEO says at the great question and then gives the questioner and action item something like
Ok, can you survey the competition and report back on their capital planned and hiring ratios great? Let's keep going eventually the rights, the stupid questions. Dry up and people ask them they stopped coming to the meetings. So you can use the phrase as a form of retribution esteem Levitt sees another use. I liked it. tried a in everything in life. Try to reward the people around me and acknowledge when they say funny thing: it's smart things or they look good act. Tying. Do things like that as a general rule have adopted. Especially I've got an older, try to do really nice things to people as much as I can, especially if the very low cost me I like to do those things that don't cost me anything by tat are good tat people, and so I think that one very strong pieces of saying it's great question is
religious acknowledgement that someone who sort of in the background is actually doing something, that's cool or interesting for for challenging last May Levitt nigh published. Think like a freak, we went on along bookstore. First in the U S in the UK the whole time, it was back to back to back to back interviews and culinary sessions we get interviewed so much so when we hear something new something we haven't thought about, it's just it's fun, and I mean it's actually somewhat fund to be You didn't answer questions being interview can range from incredibly dull and boring to really really fun, and I think it's just experiences. So somehow the time from we Charlie, Rochelle Stephen Lebanon, Stephen Dub Nora. Here there are two thousand five book for economic Jude economic theory to offer. So I have been completely done because the way.
He asked questions in what he says end up being super interesting and fund and getting me to savings. I never would have said to anyone else, people sitting at home saying this. so basic right, fundamental common sense and not totally, I think for us even Who is embarrassing because we thought maybe there was some magic we didn't have people tell us if magic, what it's all about? There's no magic, IRAN and finally, the enemy said: wait we better really make it clear to people right on page one is my magic really isn't, but when it's an incredible gift- and you have a little bit of that yourself- I've watched you do that to people that you're you're really good at getting people to say an answer. Questions a wooden and if you think about but we did our book tour of some of the people we just were amazingly clever and well prepared. So I think that it's almost from He's saying great question is just a way of saying to interviewer hey. This is actually fun and I
in a world in which this can be so little fun. You're, making this fun hey, Charlie, pasted now. Are you I'm great how you doing good? That, of course, is Charlie rose. I'm curious, who ve interviewed so are today, Charlie, Heinrich John Mccain and John Dickerson, and then last night I interviewed Dunbar Furstemburg has gone beyond the show at eleven o clock tonight. Charlie rose is the dean of the television interview, the m. You can be found at CBS this morning on with gale king, nor O Donnell at night the show is simply called Charlie rose. He is interviewed more people, especially more smart people than anyone I know of
How do you take it when someone says, let's say you're sitting down with you now? Maybe it was Steve jobs? Maybe it was President Clinton and you ask a question and they look at you across the table. Say Charlie now it's a great question: does it feel like they're trying to flatter you? Have you take that I take the China flatter me most of the time for they believe it I'm in whatever whether its egotistical- and I think it was a good question- and I agree with them, because I've I've thought about it and structured and gave some consideration to it. Or be it spontaneous in and flattering and less so it simply buying time. Has they crystallized? There thought it strikes me that you're someone who works hard to ask the kind of questions that people think are
good questions that are really good care, I do mean it would be clearly knife of me to say that I dont think about the crap out of the question. I think about it a lot and how to ask the question what I expect to get from the question and saw how the questioners perceive makes a difference. To me. I structure the question hoping to get the best possible response. I used to make longer question with some assumption that I had to explain the question I spend more time now. Simplifying the question. Take us a little further into that when you say that to structure the question hoping to get the best path What response? I guess! What I want to know from you is how do you know what the best possible responses? In other words, are you trying to like a prosecutor, get the answer to a question. That unit is sort of no already limited something. First, I would be tempted to say that's a very good question that you
but because of this conversation, and let us say that ok tears, but I would say that, because that is the right question home. It's not for me that I want them to say something that I think they ve said before, and I want them to repeat it. So I'm not in questions to have someone tell me what I want them to say or, to tell me something that I have already said before. What I want them to do is surprise me with an answer to go deeper wider, more interesting than they have before, and, and there is a kind of.
Moment in which you try to say something that is that just captures the moment and makes the person be caught up in the question, rather than simply repeating something that they ve set a thousand out before you know it strikes me hearing you talk, I care a lot because I do interviews I'm you know, I do sort of what you do, but for most people listening to this, you know they're going to be a million people are so who hear you talkin about this, and and they don't do interviews typically, but I wonder, Charlie, if you think what you're describing in and in how you think about a question can be generalised, Wilfred any person in not doing an interview per se, but just having a conversation,
with another person, whether to friend, family members, stranger, I I do think that a nine courage that encourage it at a couple levels want just a normal conversation and would be genuinely cures you dont have to to make. Precision serious but make it in the moment, but let your curiosity inspire you and that point, we'll help. The other thing that happened to me is it. You know it. There's an interesting thing: people come to my table expecting to talk about themselves, their work, their relationships, their hopes for the future. Their experience they come expecting that most of the time in regular conversation, that's not what happens so. Sometimes people come to me and said Jane. You know you ask my friend questions that I could never ask them. You know because they expect you to ask them. That's who you are in my point today:
m is no new should ask them, you should engage in kind, frustration that have to do with something, not all the time. It should often, these simply reacting to the moment of the moment that we all do whether its sports so entertain murder relationship, but but there are those profound questions that I All of us would be better off if, if we occasionally dived into our last question for each hour, they let you go if we had been in the opposite, seats if this lame idea that I had was your lame idea and we're interviewing me about it. What
but have been your first question to me about the topic of the rise of hey. That's a great question: why do you think people frequently say that's a great question. I've been schooled. by the master. That was the question. I never asked that one, but I learned- and now I will le do better, Charlie. Thank you. So much my pleasure, let me be clear on one thing when it comes to saying that's a great question: crap saying this ingenuously, I myself am not innocent. When I'm on the other side of the microphone than I am now, I am a menace. That's
great question, so yeah, that's a good question. So that's one of the great question really really good and really hard question. I like it allowed at the kind of question that I would like to have thought to have someone much smarter than me to see what they said. I know where I caught him a quota from Steve Levitt. Maybe I invented it. Maybe I've inventor of that great question hour. I remember when I first Turn you say you were giving an academic talk. I think that in order to Chicago you were discussing research of years and in an academic setting, especially when someone challenges their methodology or finding her data or whatever, I guess, I expected that the first response would always it just shouted down immediately. Show y know. I've already thought this through and hears why you're wrong in years? I am right because,
we see so much in politics right? Nobody ever acknowledges that the opponent has a valid point. But remember you just saying you know that's a really good question something to the effective like. I wish I'd thought of that. While doing my research, because you know it might be right, it might be wrong, but it certainly would have broadened my thinking on so that our members, where I first heard it from you'd, I stole from somebody, but I can't I can't put my finger on who that particular genius would have been. I all over. I feel indebtedness because I feel it's. You know, if not valuable than at least useful, and I use it now and again and so I kind of would like to return the favor to give you something that you can use in certain circumstances. So here's the thing. Do you ever see? stance where you're, interacting with someone may be kind of in passing,
and they say something to you and you dont quite catch it or they say something do that you don't want to have heard, but you kind of to say something giver habit at all you now than time on it. Here's what you say. He ready my write. It down. You say: Rebus, Cassa Frahm Let me hear you say that several more time rebus a castle Frahm Rebus a castle friend, would like more like one word: Rebus Cassa Frahm, rebates gas from good right, so that is a phrase that was invented by some genius. I don't know who I do know where I learn to say this was from the former dean of students at Dartmouth, and he was always getting these conversations in passing where you had to have the response, but he had no idea what, person is talking about. They might have been talking about a relative of yours or a former encounter them I can see you using this a lot and you want to say
something on your way out. You don't want to be rude, but you have no idea what the responses, if you say Rebus, casts a frame. The human here will interpret that in one of a hundred different ways in they will almost certainly think that you actually said something real when you differ so greatly alone. You're welcome. I love that reduce the castle for him. hey back us. This news on the next week, not afraid you in the late nineteenth Seventys the state of California Pass legislation they required. new houses to be way more energy, efficient cars. every commission projecting the time that homes built after the standards were enacted with views, eighty per
less energy did new homes in California really use eighty percent less energy and you think I'd be asking this question. The answer were: yes, that's next time for clemency, Reaganomics radio is produced by W and Y see and Abner productions. Our staff includes David Herman Gregg results gave Caroline English, so You liked him Burke and Chris Bannon withheld from Christopher Work If you want more for economics radio, you can subscribe to our part cast on Itunes or go to for economics, dot com, real fine lots of applause, the books and more.
Transcript generated on 2021-03-11.