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No. 66 – Preparing for News Media Interviews – 6

March 28, 2012

Axioms on Listening

There are two fundamental principles on listening that you may find helpful when dealing with the news media, and in fact for all communications, namely:

  1. Feelings are more important than what is said.
  2. Listening is more important than solving problems.

For example, if a reporter asks you questions that seem illogical or emotional, be wary of attempting to correct the reporter’s logic. You may find yourself making technically correct logical arguments, when the real issue of interest to the reporter and her audience are conflicts in views, values, and feelings. This is NOT to say that you condone erroneous technical logic, rather, deal with the feelings first and get the audience on your side before you attack differences of logic. When you address the logic first, you may find that you have “won the battle, but lost the war!”

The natural tendency of HPs, managers, and technical professionals, when confronted with issues, is to begin analyzing the situation in order to figure out a solution and give answers. After all, isn’t this what we get paid for? Those who rely on analytical thinking and prefer organized scheduled lives are almost always in an answer-giving or problem-solving mode. Note, there is nothing inherently wrong with problem solving, which is often necessary for resolving issues. However, there may be pitfalls if you move into the problem-solving mode too quickly. For example, you may discover too late that you have been:

  1. Solving the wrong problem.
  2. Solving problems, when the audience is not looking for answers.
  3. Missing the feelings, which the audience wants you to hear.
  4. Taking away the opportunity for others to solve their own problems.
  5. Not allowing others to build problem-solving skills
  6. Inferring that others do not have the RIGHT, RESPONSIBILITY, or CAPACITY to solve their own problems.
  7. Giving your answers, which others can then reject with the game of, “Yes, but…”

Giving answers often seems most expedient for resolving issues. You should consider the circumstances to determine whether the problem-solving approach will best meet the needs of your audience, maintain or enhance your credibility, and keep the door open for continuing communication. It is not a matter of right or wrong, but does your approach bring you closer to your communication goal?

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