“Any fool can know. The point is to understand.”

 – Albert Einstein-

Over the last several weeks we have discussed active listening and critical thinking as it relates to interviewing and life in general.  Both of these are imperative to quality interviewing and must be ever-present to ensure understanding.  It isn’t to know. It’s not to assume.  It is to fully understand.  The third essential cusp of this is understanding. 

We have speech and English classes in school, but we don’t have listening classes, critical thinking, or ensuring understanding, but we must for interviewing.  Each of these cusps are supported by and strengthened through asking quality questions.  The importance of questions requires spending hours on how to maximize results in the classes we teach.

Why is it important to ensure understanding when conducting investigative interviews?  It is crucial for several reasons:

  1. Accuracy of Information: The primary goal of an investigative interview is to gather accurate and reliable information. If the interviewee does not understand the questions or the context of the interview, the information they provide may be inaccurate, incomplete, or misleading.  If we as the interviewer assume we understand the information provided based on preconceived notions or biases and record those answers, are we getting accurate information?
  2. Legal Validity: If the interviewee’s understanding of the questions is not clear, their answers may be inadmissible in the decision-making process. To ensure that the interviewee’s responses are legally valid, it is important to ensure that they fully understand the questions and the context of the interview.
  3. Ethical Considerations: Conducting an interview with an individual who does not understand the questions, or the context can be considered unethical. Ensuring that the interviewee understands what is being asked of them helps to ensure that their rights are respected and that they are not taken advantage of.
  4. Building Rapport: Establishing rapport and building trust with the interviewee is essential in conducting successful investigative interviews. By ensuring that the interviewee understands the questions, the interviewer can build a relationship of trust and help the interviewee feel more comfortable and at ease, which further advances our ability to get quality truthful information.

Overall, ensuring understanding during investigative interviews is critical to gather reliable and accurate information, ensure legal validity, respect ethical considerations, and establish rapport and trust with the interviewee.  The interviewee must understand us and we must understand the interviewee.

It is important that we ensure understanding all aspects of what the interviewee tells us in an investigative interview.  There are several reasons why this is essential:

  1. Accuracy: Ensuring understanding of all aspects of the interviewee’s responses helps to ensure that the information gathered is accurate and reliable. Misunderstandings or incomplete information can result in incorrect conclusions or incomplete investigations that can result in the wrong actions and inaccurate reports.
  2. Context: Understanding all aspects of what the interviewee tells us helps to provide context to their responses. This can help to identify patterns or inconsistencies in their story, which can be useful in assessing the credibility of their statements and determine if there are other avenues that need to be explored.
  3. Identification of New Leads: Understanding all aspects of the interviewee’s responses can also help to identify new leads or areas of investigation. The interviewee may mention information that the interviewer was not previously aware of, which can lead to new lines of inquiry.
  4. Legal Considerations: Ensuring understanding of all aspects of what the interviewee tells us is also important for legal reasons. If the interviewee’s statements are used in court, any misunderstandings or inconsistencies in their testimony can be challenged by opposing counsel and can result in confusion or inaction by decision-makers.

Overall, ensuring understanding of all aspects of what the interviewee tells us in an investigative interview is crucial to gather accurate and reliable information, provide context to their responses, identify new leads or areas of investigation, and ensure legal validity. It is our mission as interviewers to meet each of these objectives.

Understanding can additionally be improved by being empathetic in the interview environment.  Empathy is very important. When conducting an investigative interview, the interviewer needs to be able to build a connection with the person being interviewed in order to establish trust and encourage the person to share information. Empathy, which is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another person, can help the interviewer build this connection. Therefore, an essential part of rapport is the impartation of empathy.

By demonstrating empathy, the interviewer can show that they are interested in the person’s perspective and are willing to listen to their experiences without judgment. This can help the person feel more comfortable sharing information, especially if the information is sensitive or difficult to discuss.  Remember, we are not there in judgement, but as mediators of one thing; the truth.

In addition, empathy can help the interviewer understand the emotional context of the situation. Investigative interviews often involve people who have been victims of crime or trauma, and these experiences can be emotionally charged. By demonstrating empathy, the interviewer can help the person feel heard and validated, which can create a more productive interview.

There is so much more to address on the subject of empathy, and likely it will be addressed in a future blog, much like it is addressed often in our training.  But for today, empathy is an important tool for understanding in investigative interviews. It will help the interviewer establish trust, encourage communication, and create a more positive and productive interview experience for all parties involved.

So, this week, what can we do to practice empathy to strengthen understanding?  Whether it is in interviews, meetings, or interactions, invest more in seeking to understand the whole meaning of the message being delivered.  Employ the first two cusps of active listening and critical thinking to explore all aspects of the subject being discussed. Invest to learn what more you can learn. 

Anderson Investigative Associates is positioned to custom-tailor training to your specific needs.  We build programs for you, our clients.  We want to meet your needs and requirements.  If you have any questions or would like to discuss the issues of listening, critical thinking, and ensuring understanding or any training need, please reach out.  Additional issues pertaining to interviewing, auditing, and investigations can be found in other blogs and videos that we have produced and are contained in most blocks of instruction that our company presents.

If you have additional questions, comments, or have an interviewing topic you would like me to address, give me a shout, please.  In the meantime, be well, stay safe out there, and diligently endeavor to understand better…don’t miss the world around you.

Mark A. Anderson

Director of Training and Development

Anderson Investigative Associates, llc

114 Loucks Avenue

Scottdale, PA 15683