Setting Atmospheric Ground Rules

If you want to have a conversation with a person and your desire is to have them feel so comfortable that their answers to your questions are volunteered instead of being surrendered, then you must create an atmosphere that is conducive to such a conversation. While this is more challenging in a formal interview setting, it is still possible. Your first step is to set ground rules before you start the conversation or interview. Here are some helpful hints. Let the person you are talking with know:

  1. You are just going to have a casual conversation.
  2. There are no right or wrong answers.
  3. They will not be judged in any way.
  4. If they want to change their mind or their answers mid-stream, it's okay.
  5. They can say whatever they want to say. Everything is acceptable and welcomed.
  6. They are welcome to leave the conversation whenever they want.
  7. You will respect their time constraints or limitations in the conversation.
  8. You want them to feel comfortable in the conversation.
  9. You are looking forward to the conversation.

The more formal the setting, the harder this is to do, but if the other person realizes there's no way to "fail", then they will immediately feel more relaxed...and a interviewee that is relaxed is a happy interviewee.

Very few people will do this in a normal conversation, but try it anyway. You'll see that the other person will gain respect in you because you care enough to mention these things. In addition to that, you will probably catch them off-guard because no one has ever before mentioned those things before the conversation has even started. It might seem weird to you at first, but try it anyway. You'll be surprised with the results!