Denial is the shock absorber for the soul. It protects us until we are equipped to cope with reality.
-C. S. Lewis

Why is it essential that we deal with Denials?
When conducting an interview, it’s important to effectively handle any denials from the interviewee. We as interviewers must realize that denials can be caused by a variety of sources that can include the interviewer. These denials distract us from the objectives of the interview and often send us on a tangent that is counterproductive to the resolution of issues and a successful interview.
I teach a section in many trainings entitled “Strength and Weakness Forum”, where we examine our perceived interviewing strengths and weaknesses. It is incumbent that I share too, and over my career handling denials presented problems. I never really received training on these techniques, so I allowed way too many denials and issues to be put on the table that then had to resolved to move the interview to resolution. In many cases, I still received positive results but often spent far more time in the interview than would have been necessary if I knew how to effectively handle denials.
Factors such as interviewee fears, room setting, interviewer’s attitude, and lack of credibility are just a few reasons of why an interviewee may present a denial.
We must plan and strategize properly to eliminate the possibility of contributing to the interviewee’s denials. So, what are some reasons why interviewees may deny:
1. Interviewee’s fear of retaliation if he/she talks.
2. Interviewee is innocent.
3. Interviewer fails to build his or her credibility with case facts.
4. No rapport is established between interviewer and interviewee.
5. Too many distractions in interview location; could be clocks, computers, phones, PDAs, pets, children, television, others present, upcoming appointments, visible cameras (working or not), microphones or other apparent recording equipment, noise, etc.
6. Interviewee’s fear of outcome; court/trial, prison, loss of job, loss of family, reputation, etc.
7. Interview room set-up: chairs to close, doors locked, barriers, scenic windows, etc.
8. Weapons and other law enforcement/authority accoutrements present.
9. Interviewer tells interviewee the penalty for the crime.
10. Interviewer uses harsh language; charges, jury, judge, attorney, prison, jail, prosecute, etc.
This is but a small sampling of the many examples of what could cause an interviewee to give denials during an interview.
Denial is the way people handle what they cannot handle.
-Shannon L. Alder

To minimize these denials, the interviewer must do some prep work such as setting up the room properly and taking away any distractions; prepare an interrogation plan to avoid harsh language and not stating penalties; understanding the suspects potential fears and helping overcome them; know the case facts and present them with credibility, not uncertainty.
By knowing your investigation and thinking of the factors that could be associated with why the interviewee will give denials, the interviewer can prepare better and gain an edge by not having to constantly encounter denials.
Sometimes it’s the simplest or smallest thing that we never think can cause a denial. This can extremely limit the amount of information we obtain from an interviewee, thus hampering our investigation and not maximizing the quality and quantity of information obtained.
When it comes to denials, we must understand how identify a direct denial and shut it down both verbally and non-verbally. Once stopped we then must be prepared to redirect the conversation in the interview.
We must understand the concept of the reason denial, how to identify it, accept it and then turn that reason into a theme to resolve the issue.
We must understand the use of permission phrases and how to effectively address them in the interview. Coupled with this is our understanding of how to respond to questions posed to us, rather than answer them and the effect this can have on keeping the interview focused on the objectives that we are there to address.
Anderson Investigative Associates is positioned to custom-tailor training to your specific needs. If you have any questions or would like to discuss the above issues of handling denials or any training need, please reach out to me. Additional issues pertaining to interviewing and investigations can be found in other blogs and videos that I 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. In the meantime, be well, stay safe out there, and handle those denials.
Mark A. Anderson
Director of Training and Development
Anderson Investigative Associates, llc
114 Loucks Avenue
Scottdale, PA 15683