Sixth in a series of seven blog posts on interviewing techniques to draw out people’s most authentic stories.

Even the smallest words you choose in your questions can make all the difference to whether your interviewee opens up to you or snaps shut like a clam.

This isn’t about scripting yourself so much as being aware how a single word can make a difference to the way someone hears and responds to your question.

Use AND rather than BUT. People tend to interpret BUT as an argument. Instead of saying, “But you said earlier that you really wanted to buy the red car,” try saying, “And yet you really wanted to buy the red car – what made you change your mind?”

Never ask a WHY question. My husband is a pretty argumentative guy (in an endearing way, of course). When he told me this morning that he would be coming back home after running an errand rather than going in to the office as I expected he would, I asked, “Why?” “Well alright, I won’t then,” he shot back – only half joking.

People see “Why?” as a challenge. Instead of asking, “Why did you take the train?”, try asking, “Tell me about what made you choose to take the train instead of flying?”

In the final post of this series, find out how handing your interviewee a magic wand can open up your conversation in unexpected ways.