Stop Replying to Questions With “That’s a Great Question”

You probably think you’re doing the right thing. You’re not.

Jill Francis


Two women in a radio studio. They are both wearing white and have severe looks on their faces. They both are holding coffee cups and both have microphones near their faces.
Photo by cottonbro from Pexels

In my life outside of tossing word salad on this platform, I am often interviewed about my research and it stresses me the hell out. You might think it’s easy to answer questions about your own data baby, but it is absolutely not. Just because you brought something into this world, it doesn’t mean that you remember every detail about it. Go ahead and ask your average new parent if they remember every detail of their child’s life so far and they will likely launch a diaper bag at your head. The only difference between me and a new parent is that I have to sound somewhat intelligent while directing the question-asker toward the bridge that they can fuck right off of.

I don’t tell people to fuck off.

Unfortunately, I have noticed an equally vulgar language tick develop when I speak to people. It seemed innocuous at first, like a little soft spot of language Nerf to land on when I needed it. Research shows that the brain doesn’t actually multitask, it task-switches, but I can promise you that I was able to both spleen out with anxiety and desperately clutch for a cogent argument at the same time. And then it happened.

“That’s a great question.”

Although it took only one second to say the phrase, it was long enough for me to circle the wagons in my brain and kick a few neurons in the ass. When I emerged from up under the dusty file boxes in my head, I had something to say and the conversation kept going.

I thought I scored. I’d discovered a tiny conversational wormhole that I could escape through and come back out the other side quickly enough to conserve both the space-time continuum and my reputation as a capable scientist. All I had to do was say one phrase and it almost, kind of sounded like it was maybe even a compliment. Well, howdaya like that? So I kept using it.

“That’s a great question!”

“You know what? That is such a great question.”

“I love this question.”

“It’s a really good question.”

In the words of the great Inigo Montoya, “I don’t think that means what you think



Jill Francis

American immigrant in Italy with too many degrees in Psychology. I write about everything I’m afraid of.