Executive Rewind: Contentious Interviews

Feeling like you’re in a fight that you have to win?

Remember, only a pig enjoys enjoys wrestling in slop!


Media folks also have opinions; or, if you prefer, agendas. When they feel strongly about something that collides with your own position, or opinion, there can be fireworks.

Neil Cavuto of Fox News Channel is extraordinarily well informed. He can be tough, but not just for show or to simply be a bully. Yes, he has his own strong opinions and they do come out in his interviews. The challenge (and opportunity if you manage to get on his daily program, Your World with Neil Cavuto) is how you handle him or any other interviewer who “takes you on” in a news interview environment, and still get your messages through to target audiences.

In one program, Cavuto explored a labor leader’s opposition to a new Wal-Mart policy to schedule employees based on a store’s needs. In other words, have more workers around during typically busy hours and fewer when business is lighter. So, your work schedule may vary from day to day.

His guest was James Thindwa, who heads Jobs with Justice in Chicago. The fireworks exploded quickly…and often. While Cavuto’s agenda was the retailer’s desire to meet customer needs, Thindwa was focused on the lives of Wal-Mart employees. Cavuto frequently interrupted and each time Thindwa kept talking. The result was those mind-numbing occasions when you couldn’t understand what either one of them was saying. But, each time, Cavuto prevailed and Thindwa finally stopped to hear the question. Thindwa was marginalized by his persistence in trying to talk over Cavuto, although he did well by keeping his emotions in check. He could have done even better had he not tried to compete and advanced his agenda as the more controlled party to the interview.

The Media Trainers® Re–winder Reminder:

  • When you’re interrupted, even if it happens a lot, don’t compete. Just stop talking and listen, especially if it’s a live broadcast interview. The interviewer can and will dominate and you’ll come off looking bad, even whiny.
  • Listen very closely to what your interviewer is saying or asking. Usually, there’s a word or phrase they use that you can adopt in your response that prevents another interruption.
  • Ask politely for the opportunity to respond to a point fully rather than arguing either back and forth, or on top of the questioner.
  • There’s a good chance your emotions will simmer. Set them aside. Remember that you really have control over only two things: what you say and how you react (or don’t react) emotionally.

The Media Trainers®, LLC, has a Tough Questions eBook on our Web site that you can download free for easy reference.

The Media Trainers®

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