I don’t watch a lot of movies, but I really enjoy the zany detective and martial arts series “Rush Hour” with Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker. One of my favorite scenes is from the first installment when Tucker meets Chan for the first time and not knowing if he understands English, says to Chan very slowly and loudly, “Do you understand the words that are coming out of my mouth?” (as if that would somehow advance their communication)
Sometimes when you are dealing with the media, it might seem as if the interviewer doesn’t understand the words coming out of your mouth. I’ve noticed a lot of that lately on TV in the debate over gun control following the Newtown school killings. Guests on both sides of the issue have been passionately making their case, oftentimes interrupting and/or battling with anchors they feel are not “understanding” their arguments.
Those kinds of tactics might help to rally others who believe as you do, but I’ve found they are a pretty ineffective tool in winning over converts to your position…and in fact can sometimes turn people against you. Plus, it usually causes the interviewer to be even tougher in his/her questioning. That’s not what you want. So what should you do when you feel you’re not being understood?
First, it’s vital to know what you hope to gain in an interview situation before it happens. Certainly the person doing the interview has a plan of action in mind when it comes to asking questions. So, too, you need to have a plan of action– a media strategy– that will get your message out in the way you want it to come out. Without a strategy, you will have little chance of success, especially when the interview gets tough.
Second, use the line of questioning to your advantage. If things start getting off course, use your answers to get it back on the track you want. If the interviewer isn’t clear about some point, restate it in a different way. And always swiftly (but nicely) correct any inaccurate information.
Finally, stay cool and polite. Remember, the interviewer has a job to do and you do, too. Working with him or her is a lot more effective (and easier) than being an antagonist. As my dad used to say, “You get a lot more flies with honey than with vinegar.”