If you don’t know the answer to a challenge, asking fact-finding questions can enable good conversation, take the pressure off, and help you learn how to respond in the future.
Maybe you don’t consider yourself fast enough on your feet to keep up with someone who’s quicker than you in an intense discussion. No problem. Don’t feel under pressure to immediately answer every question asked or every point made.
For tactical reasons you may want to adopt the posture of a neutral observer. Shift from argument mode to fact-finding mode.
Try this. Say something like, “Interesting point. I’d like to hear more. Let me ask some questions about your view and your reasons for it so I understand it. Then let me think about it. We can talk more later.” This shows you take the other person’s view seriously and also gives you time to think carefully about the issues.
Ask probing questions (Columbo tactic), but don’t try to make your case just then. Take notes if you need to. Make sure you understand the challenge or the objection clearly. Then do some work on your own when the pressure is off, on your own time—maybe even asking others for some help in the process. Then come back prepared.
If your discussion was just part of a chance meeting, you may not be able to revisit the topic with the same person, but you’ll be prepared next time the issue comes up.
This is a great way to completely take the pressure off you. It’s not a retreat, just a different type of engagement. It greatly reduces your anxiety level, strengthens your own confidence, and prepares you to be more effective next time around.