Dr. Dennis E. Hensley, a professor at Taylor University, may look a little starchy-stiff and unapproachable at first glance, but after spending years studying under him I know he’s a seriously creative and talented mentor, and one of the best teachers I’ve ever had.
He’s taught me many fiction and non-fiction writing skills both at Taylor University and at writer’s conferences. But today I want to share one part of his lecture on interviewing: the perfect interviewing tool.
This tool makes all the difference when interviewing for a story. It’s something so simple that writers tend to forget how powerful it is. It has the ability to change the whole course of an interview and change the meat of the story.
What is the single most powerful thing you could do in an interview after you ask the bomb question?
Yep, that’s all. Just let the silence fall. Why are people uncomfortable with quiet? Why do they feel like they have to fill the void? Do NOT fill the air with another question when all you need to do is SHUT-UP and listen.
Why? Because the interview isn’t about you, it’s about them and you don’t want to lead them down a road you think they should take. Follow their path instead. It’ll be different than yours. Listen.
After they answer the bomb question, smile, lean toward them, nod again and guess what? They might continue to talk because THEY don’t like the silence. Chances are they might ramble, too. That’s when you’ll find their inner most secret, like what kind of underwear they prefer, or that their great-grandmother robbed banks alongside Bonnie and Cylde.
So go ahead and ask the bomb, and let the silence fall.
Experiment on a friend. What secrets can you get them to divulge by using the tool of silence?