On an episode of “The Tim Ferriss Show,” entrepreneur, investor, and author Tim Ferriss spoke with Krista Tippett, the bestselling author and award-winning host of the “On Being” podcast.
Ferriss asked Tippett about the interviewing mistakes she’d made early in her career and Tippett responded with something not entirely unexpected:
“I learned at some point early on that I was better when I was really planted in the fact that it wasn’t about me. That the point of the interview was drawing out this other person.”
So far, so sensible. But then she went on to say something a little, well, weird:
“I used to have this experience that I would do all these rituals to have good energy.
“And at some point I realised that sometimes when I went into the studio for an interview and I was tired for whatever reason — I hadn’t been able to get the sleep or I hadn’t been able to drink the right amount of caffeine — it was a better experience for me and for them.”
(I’ll admit that I was listening to this podcast right before a scheduled phone interview, and was just about to move on from green tea to coffee so I’d be perky and on-point during the call.)
Tippett went on: “It did manifest as a calm. I was worried about it as tiredness, but it took an edge of energy off, which in fact was helpful to letting the other person’s energy be what drove the conversation.”
Tippett’s observation is useful for journalists — the whole point of an interview, and by far the most difficult part, is sitting back and letting your interviewee take the spotlight.
But the idea is just as useful for anyone who aspires to be a functional human being. As Dale Carnegie wrote back in 1936, in his bestseller, “How to Win Friends and Influence People,” the key to making people like you is letting them talk about themselves.
You don’t have to skip your daily caffeine routine so that you’re literally nodding off as your conversation partner speaks.
Even a simple mindset shift — I’m going to make this conversation about the other person — before the interaction is probably sufficient. The idea is to actively temper your urge to jump in with smart questions or share personal stories before the other person has fully shared their experiences.
That said, it’s fine — and often beneficial — for you to share some personal tidbits, too if you’re hoping to develop a friendship with your conversation partner. The idea is to give people the space to share freely before you assume the stage.
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