In the audience at a seminar last week, I witnessed an interaction that probably takes place often, in a wide range of circumstances.

An audience member, when invited to ask a question, instead made a statement that was at odds with the point of view of the presenter, who proceeded to get annoyed, and respond to the statement with aggression. Predictably, the exchange did not go far, and if the presenter takes the time to look at the tapes, he should be embarrassed at the opportunity lost.

How much better to ask of the questioner: “why do you say that” and follow up with another question, and perhaps another.

The outcome of questions may have been they both, and the rest of the audience learnt something, rather than seeing the session degrade into an embarrassing mess.

Humans are hard wired to react to aggression, “fight or flight” is the usual expression, but I think we should, under some circumstances add the option of “question and learn” to our repertoire.