I’d rather be grilled slowly over a medium flame than grilled by Congress. It’s like being in court with multiple prosecutors hurling trap questions at you designed to humiliate and embarrass and serve their own agendas to get re-elected. And you have no judge or defense attorney yelling “I object.”
If you ever get the pleasure of being a crisis spokesperson at a congressional hearing, here’s how to survive it:
1) Slow down your rate of speech. They only get 4 minutes each and you can limit their total questions by giving long, slow answers. Continue talking to the end of your sentence even if they interrupt. They will come across as bullies and this will earn you sympathy with the viewing public.
2) When they demand “that’s a yes or no question,” you answer “well, yes AND no.” And then give a conditional response.
3) Pause, repeat the representatives name in a friendly manner and humbly repeat their question before answering to “make sure you understand.” (Also eats up time.)
4) Keep your cool, even when they accuse you of lying, ignorance or inaction. The media loves to get emotional soundbites to use against you.
5) If you really did something wrong, apologize. And say how you plan to fix it. Promise to investigate issues and get back to them with details. In other words, take negative issues out of the public arena as soon as possible.
This won’t guarantee that you’ll avoid getting burned in the process, but you can minimize the damage to the point that your colleagues will say “well done.”