7 Communication Lessons from Over 600 Interviews

I’ve conducted more than 600 interviews since starting what is today the Unmistakable Creative Podcast. Each interview has been in its own way a lesson in communication and human behavior. These 7 principles drive almost everything that I do as an interviewer.

1. Be Present

There’s nothing more obnoxious than somebody who is clearly distracted by other things whether they are an interviewer or and interviewee. Shut down everything other than Skype or whatever it is you’re using. Turn off your phone or put it on do not disturb. Act as if you and the person you’re talking to are the only two people on the planet.

2. Listen

One of the earliest pieces of feedback I got from my interviews was that I interrupted my guests. When I went back and listened to some of these conversations I realized how true that was. So I made a concerted effort to listen. At this point it’s not uncommon for an Unmistakable Creative guest to talk for upwards of 15 minutes on a topic before I say a word. And from that, we end up creating pieces like these animated shorts below. Listening is the most valuable skill that anyone can develop as an interviewer.

3. Ditch Your Script

When an interviewer goes through a scripted list of questions, it comes across more like an interrogation than a conversation. Not only that, it’s kind of mind-numbing for a person to listen to. It also kills spontaneity, and the possibility of hearing stories that might have never otherwise been told. Just imagine if you went into every interaction with a human being with a scripted list of questions. It would be ridiculous and seem really insincere.

Here are a few people who masterfully ditch their script

4. Build Your Questions Based on People’s Answers

Within every answer that someone gives you there’s another question to be asked. The only way to figure out what the question is oddly enough is not to think too hard about what the next question will be. I liken this to riding a wave. As a surfer, you are always adjusting to what the wave is doing. The same is true for a conversation or interview.

5. Ask Open-Ended Questions

If you ask questions that are not open-ended, you’ll find a conversation will fizzle out really quickly. Here are some examples of questions that are effectively useless

  • How many copies did the book sell?

These kinds of questions bring a conversation to a screeching halt. They don’t elicit stories, which takes me to the next point.

6.Humans are Wired for Story

We watch movies, we read books, and we consume art because we’re wired for story. NPR is famous for having coined the term “driveway moments.”When you elicit stories from the person you are talking to, you end up in a much more compelling conversation. You create driveway moments.

7. Embrace the Long Pause

There are few moments in a conversation as powerful as a long pause. Human beings have a natural tendency to want to fill silences. As an interviewer, I figured out that some of the most provocative, vulnerable, and riveting moments of any conversation occur right after a long pause.

Most of the ideas I’ve mentioned above can be applied to pretty much all forms of communication.

I’m the host and founder of The Unmistakable Creative Podcast.

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