On occasions, an interviewee can become surprisingly deferential and timid when an interviewer presents them with a hostile, negative, inflammatory or even personal question.
The spokesperson might disagree wholeheartedly with the question put to them but this is not reflected in the language they choose in responding. The interviewee can come across to the viewer or listener almost as if they are being apologetic, so intimidated are they by the interviewer’s question.
So, let’s say you are the head of an international sporting body that has presided over one of the worst doping scandals in the history of sport. The sportsmen and women involved have run circles around you and your anti-doping measures have proved to be totally useless.
In such circumstances, it would not be surprising for the interviewer to make his or her question something along the lines of: “Many people in the sport regard you as a complete bunch of amateurs. What have you got to say for yourself?”
Too often you might hear in reply a phrase like, “I’m not sure I would agree with that comment” or “I don’t think I would agree with that” or “That’s not entirely the case.”
Language like this sounds as though the interviewee is not convinced themselves about the strength of the case they are trying to put across.
It’s as though the interviewer, through their question, has delivered such a knock-out blow that the interviewee has been shocked into verbal oblivion. Either that, or the spokesperson is so cowered by the question that they feel it’s not their place to come back strongly.
Either state of mind is wrong.
At such a moment, the interviewee should try to respond as follows.
Firstly, make sure you answer the question with emphatic language rather than the insipid, lukewarm phrases mentioned above.
The kind of words to use at such a moment are, “Absolutely not”, “I disagree with that completely” or “That’s simply not the case”.
This leaves the audience in no doubt about where you stand. Furthermore, so convinced are you by the strength of your case, your language is unequivocal and assertive.
At the same time, however, it’s important that the interviewee delivers such words in a calm and composed manner.
No matter how infuriated, angry or insulted an interviewee might feel by a presenter’s question, there is absolutely no merit whatsoever in losing your rag in reply. The language should be strong, but your manner should suggest to the listeners or viewers that you have taken the question in your stride.
So, firm language delivered calmly is the order of the day, no matter how provocative the language or aggressive the manner of the person putting the questions to you.