A Tough Interview – or Just Bullying?

When does a tough interview become a bullying issue?  Many politicians certainly come away from encounters with the likes of Nick Ferrari on LBC or Piers Morgan (late of Good Morning Britain, now on TalkTV) feeling pretty bruised and battered.  It comes with the territory, and they have to get used to it.  But what about everyone else – particularly those who are not used to being interviewed, or do not see themselves as being in the public eye?  The issue arises after Emma Barnett, the respected host of Woman’s Hour on BBC Radio 4, interviewed a trans woman who heads an endometriosis charity.   Ms Barnett, who has made no secret of the fact she has suffered from the condition herself, raised the question, among others, of whether it was appropriate to use the term ‘those assigned female at birth’ rather than ‘woman’ for such a condition, as it could be seen to be devaluing the female experience.  It was a challenging conversation and she was later accused of bullying.  Without going into the merits or demerits of the specific exchange, it seems clear if you have to be interviewed on a contentious issue like this, that a robust conversation is only to be expected.

As an interviewee, you need to be ready to stand up for yourself – it is the interviewer’s job to play devil’s advocate in such cases.  So, the right preparation is particularly important if you feel that as an interviewee you may be entering the lion’s den.  Research the programme and the interviewer as much as you can to see what line they are likely to take.  Think through the toughest questions you could be asked from someone who doesn’t agree with your position – then practice answering them as coolly and convincingly as you can.  Then with any luck the interview itself will feel like a breeze by comparison.  If you do find yourself struggling while on the air, try to stay calm, allowing yourself a pause to gather your thoughts, instead of rushing in with an ill-judged response.

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