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Navigating Choppy Waters: Managing Difficult Interviewees in Investigative Interviews

Posted - May 29, 2023

In the world of investigative interviews, encountering difficult interviewees is an inevitable challenge. Whether it’s a reluctant witness, a hostile subject, or an individual adept at evasion, managing these tough situations requires finesse and strategic approaches. In this article, we will explore effective techniques for handling difficult interviewees, enabling investigators to navigate these choppy waters with confidence and skill.

Establish Rapport

Building rapport is crucial when dealing with difficult interviewees. Begin the conversation by creating a comfortable and non-threatening environment. Show empathy and active listening skills to demonstrate a genuine interest in their perspective. By establishing a rapport, you can encourage the interviewee to open up and share valuable information.

Active Listening and Non-Verbal Cues

Listening actively and attentively is essential when dealing with difficult interviewees. Pay close attention to their verbal and non-verbal cues, allowing you to gauge their emotions, motivations, and hidden messages. Maintain eye contact, nod affirmatively, and use appropriate body language to show understanding and encouragement. This approach helps in building trust and may encourage the interviewee to cooperate.

Remain Calm and Professional

In challenging interviews, it’s important to remain composed and professional. Emotions can run high, especially if the interviewee becomes confrontational or defensive. Avoid reacting impulsively or engaging in arguments. Instead, maintain a calm and collected demeanour, steering the conversation back on track and focusing on obtaining relevant information.

Use Open-Ended Questions

Utilizing open-ended questions is an effective technique to encourage interviewees to provide detailed responses. These questions require more than a simple ”yes” or “no” answer, allowing the interviewee to share their thoughts, feelings, and experiences. This approach not only fosters dialogue but also provides opportunities to uncover valuable insights and discover hidden facts.

Employ Active Persuasion

When faced with a resistant interviewee, active persuasion techniques can help break down barriers. Use logical reasoning, present evidence, and highlight the potential benefits of cooperation. Demonstrating how their cooperation can contribute to the resolution of the case or the greater good can motivate difficult interviewees to share vital information.

Adapt Your Approach 

Flexibility is key when dealing with various types of difficult interviewees. Different personalities and behaviours require different strategies. Adapt your approach accordingly, tailoring your questioning techniques and communication style to match the interviewee’s disposition. This versatility allows you to establish a connection and increase the chances of a successful outcome.

Maintain Control of the Interview

Despite the challenges presented by difficult interviewees, it is crucial to maintain control of the interview process. Set clear expectations and boundaries, ensuring the interview remains focused and productive. If necessary, assert your authority respectfully, reminding the interviewee of the purpose of the interview and the importance of their cooperation.

Navigating the complex landscape of difficult interviewees is a skill that investigators must master. By establishing rapport, actively listening, remaining calm and professional, utilizing open-ended questions, employing active persuasion, adapting your approach, and maintaining control of the interview, investigators can effectively manage challenging situations. Remember, each encounter is an opportunity to uncover valuable information and move closer to the truth. With these techniques in your toolbox, you’ll be well-equipped to handle any difficult interviewee that comes your way, ensuring a more successful outcome in your investigative interviews.