There is nothing more important in your quiver of effective communications tools than the bridge. It’s a verbal device that allows you to acknowledge or address a question you don’t want to answer and transition to a key message that you want to deliver.

It appears White House economic advisor Jared Bernstein had already built his “bridge” in anticipation of an unwanted question during a CNN interview. In the interview on the economic impact of President Biden’s visit to Saudi Arabia, Bernstein is asked to comment on the president’s controversial fist bump with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Bernstein was ready with an address of the question and a bridge to a message he was there to deliver. View the clip below.

While Bernstein seem prepared for the question and was ready with a bridge, you can apply the technique even when the question is not anticipated. A simple phrase such as “I can’t speak to that…” and then bridging to a key message keeps you and the interviewer focused on your topic. What you don’t want to do is completely ignore a question without acknowledging it. That’s what politicians tend to do and that’s why many of them are not held in high esteem. And that’s not what we want for you or any of our clients!