Reading People: Tips from TV Journalists

What nonverbal communication tips can we learn from television journalists? How can you read people better? How do they know which questions to ask at precisely which moment that will reveal important information? Granted not all interviews on TV are spontaneous and far too many are canned and cut in the editor’s booth.

I’m reading Talk Less, Say More from a TV anchor woman Connie Dieken. Here are a couple of communication tips that journalists use on camera that can help us be better communicators.

  1. Watch for eye movement. If people raise their eyebrows or their eyes dart nervously, it signals that you’ve touched a nerve, or maybe you’ve made a mistake. It’s an opportunity to clarify and ask them what they’re thinking.
  2. Observe the lips. Dieken says the lips are among the most emotional parts of the body and that drooping or pursed lips are usually a sign of disappointment or disagreement.

I think these things are signals to ask more questions. We can’t assume a twitch or a frown means anything other than there’s something unvocalized that’s going on. Could be lettuce in the teeth or a contact lense bothering them.

But it’s worth paying attention to and asking clarifying questions to learn  more. Most of us are so focused on the purpose of our conversation and our goals, that we don’t pay enough attention to communication clues.

Another suggestion from Connie Dieken in this book is to communicate in the receiver’s style.

“If you’re dealing with an analytical,nuts-and-bolts person, give them the facts they crave. With a drama queen, make certain to address the emotional needs.”

Since people often mis-communicate and aren’t always good at making their intended point clear, here’s what else you should pay attention to:

  1. Listen for repetition. People repeat what they really want and value, especially if they feel they’re not being heard. If they ramble, listen for the words that get used the most.
  2. Take note of emphasis. When you hear a word stressed with added tonality, take the hint. They are trying to signal that word holds special significance. Ask them to tell you more about that.

These are great tips that can improve the quality of interviews and conversations. What do you think?

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