Reporter's Notebook

The art and science of the interview

Posts Tagged ‘Help

I Can’t Help You

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This is a quickie.

In the course of these interviews with political candidates, I have had ocassion to interview some folks who don’t always know what they want to say or how they want to say it.  I completely understand that.  Many times, I have several thoughts going through my mind at once and I often have to make me pause long enough to time the traffic lights in my head.  And sometimes, some people are just a little overwhelmed and could use a teeny bit of help.

But some political candidates don’t realize that it is absolutely … and let me say that again, … it is absolutely their responsibility to know what they want to say before they sit down in front of a microphone.  This is important for several reasons.

First, if you want the people’s confidence and, by virtue, their vote, they need to know you can organize critical thought.  They need to see you know how to mentally put one foot in front of the other.  In other words, how do you think when you’re not under pressure.

Next, they need to see that you can think on your feet.  That you can grab facts and concepts from the air and knit them together in response to unexpected questions.  In other words, how do you think when you are under pressure?

Then, you need to show you are able to stay focused on the question while you’re thinking of your answer.  Consistently drifting off or losing your place does not instill confidence in voters.

Then, you need to show them that you have understanding of an issue or at least the savvy to know how to beg off until you can learn more.  Have you researched it?  Has your staff looked into it?  Do you care?

Then, that you can answer the question that was asked, not just repeat your talking points over and over.  Interviewers aren’t stupid and neither is the public.  We hate that.

And finally, that you can be cool under pressure.  That you can defend yourself and your ideas with aplomb, not dripping with passive aggressiveness.  Nobody likes bitchy from anybody.

All of these are important, autonomous skills that the candidate must have mastered because there will be times, in office, when they will choose to go against the prevailing wind and endure unimaginable pressure from enemies, friends and constituents in business and colleagues in other branches of government.  The voter must believe they can stand alone when they must.

So, when I’m asking a candidate a question that I think, because of the office they have registered for they should certainly be able to answer, and they give me a deer in the headlights look because one of these things either has or hasn’t happened, there is nothing I can (or will) do to save them.

Because these people want you to trust them with your money.  They want you to let them do things in your name.  They want you to give them the authority to shape your life and the lives of the people you love and care about for years into the future.  If they can’t handle a few questions, listeners should seriously think about whether they can handle anything more.

Written by Interviewer

May 7, 2014 at 23:42

The Ask

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Asking opens doors.  Asking makes the unconsidered, the inconceivable and the unapproachable, possible.  Asking is the wild card of the universe.  Because before we ask, we don’t know.  And because we don’t know, we assume.  And because we all have our own egos, large and small, we think we already know the answer.  So, we try to work around the issue to get to where we want to be without asking.  We try to get what we want without taking the one critical path that will definitively get us there, yes or no. 

We may think we don’t have the courage to ask or the stomach to ask or the humility to ask or the time to ask.  But not asking can set in motion a cascading, Angry Birds kind of collapse of the expectations we built thinking we can achieve escape velocity from metaphysical gravity.

Sometimes, only one person can make it happen and that person wants their respect before they give you yours.  Or they’ve been waiting a long time to deny you what you deeply want and you both know it.  Or, they’ve been dying to help you, but they want you to man or woman up and ask.  Sometimes, you don’t ask because you don’t want to know, but everything and everybody in your orbit is stopped, like some kind of Twilight Zoney solstice and they’re all waiting for you to move on. And of course, you can be stuck, forced to ask the wrong person who may take your ask and use it against you. But the ask isn’t about who you ask as much as it is about the act of asking and the direction that compass needle points. Yes, you can be betrayed. But the world is full of roads to your own Lotus blossom. Ask somebody else since The Ask can also help you circumvent demigods. Consequently, you may have to make a lot of asks before you finally get to an answer you’ve been praying for. But it’s possible to that answer will never come, no matter how may people you ask. And if you’re facing a wall because there is nobody else to ask, live with it … for now.  

Like all roads lead to Rome, sometimes, all routes and passageways do point you to your one and only one Omega man or woman. Of course, you can always opt out of the ask, and everything connected with it.  Our time here is full of smaller asks that we can avoid or can work around or can face easier than others.  Rarely in life does it come down to the one ask that changes everything.  But it does tend to happen, significantly, at least once.  And when it does, it’s usually the biggest thing we’ve faced, or will face.  So we can choose to not play it out, but chances are, it’ll be the one decision we’ll never forget; the one that will affect all the rest. 

The Ask is the crack of the bat in John Fogerty’s “Put me in Coach.”  The Ask, at the right time and to the right person, crushes everything else. The Ask can slam doors shut or blast them open. But to get either result for sure, you have to do it, face it, let it send you flying – up or down. Because in the end, the ask is all about you.

Written by Interviewer

March 26, 2013 at 22:31