Effective interviewing requires a lot of work. Laying the foundation for rapport, closely monitoring body language, and controlling the interview. (Click here for the basics of interviewing) Monitoring and controlling the tempo of the interview is an additional technique that effective private investigators use to increase the amount and the quality of the information they obtain from the interviewee.
For the purposes of this article, tempo refers to two primary aspects; the emotional state of both the investigator and the interviewee, and speed of the interview, primarily through the speed in which questions are asked.
Emotional State refers to the emotional state of the both participants -- interviewer and interviewee. Private investigators may feign various emotions at various times during an interview to invoke a response from the interviewee. They may feign lack of interest, anger, and/or empathy during an interview to further a sense of trust or illicit a response from the other. The emotional state of the interviewee during the interviewee also impacts the results. Individuals that are angry, or emotionally upset, may be less likely to impart truthful information, not that they are trying to mislead, but their emotions control their verbal responses. Depending on the incident, emotions may vary from fear, to happiness.
Speed of the interview refers to how quickly or slowly the private investigator moves through the line of questioning, or the speed in which they guide the interviewee in to responding to questions. Sometimes a line of quick questions, not rapid-fire, may evoke an outburst or emotional response. Consider the private investigator that pauses frequently, slows down in asking questions. Depending on the interviewee's emotional state, this may increase or decrease stress which can aid in gathering important information.
Let's start with a disclaimer - The following techniques are provided as a brief overview, not a course. Be careful in utilizing techniques that follow without proper training and then guidance from a skilled investigator.
Emotionally Charged - When the interviewee is emotionally charged, on the verge of tears, or becoming angry, slowing the tempo will help calm the emotions of the other person. This is really important to consider when interviewing victims about an incident. As their emotions increase, they often deviate from the line of questioning as emotions threaten to overwhelm them. With suspects, that are becoming angry, an investigator may attempt to reduce the emotions so they will not refuse to answer questions, and to ensure they continue to maintain rapport. Controlling the tempo by taking breaks, or changing the line of questioning to non-emotion evoking aspects of the investigation allow the investigator to control the interviewee's emotions.
Charging Emotions - The reverse of slowing emotions with an emotionally charged individual, the investigator may prompt emotions, for example; "I would have been so angry if they said that to me, how'd did that make you feel?" The statement, then the question may evoke emotions in the individual that can help the investigator gain additional insight in to the interviewee's responses. Evoking anger in an individual should only be done as a last resort as it can result in physical outbursts, or the interviewee fails to continue to cooperate. Charging emotions is most effective in getting the interviewee to feel empathy for another such as a crime victim. For example; "They lost their entire paycheck, now they are trying to figure out how to buy groceries for their family." This statement, MAY evoke feelings of guilt in a suspect.
Pauses - Pausing after a questions and after an individual's response is often unnatural, but when employed correctly, it is a very effective method for eliciting additional information from someone. Consider when asking a question, the interviewee provides a response, then the investigator remains quiet, slowing the tempo, and continues to look at the interviewee. The interviewee will often feel compelled to provide more information. A great example; Private investigator asks, "Why do you think others around you feel you committed the crime?". Suspect responds, "I don't know." The investigator pauses, continues to make eye contact, the suspect then continues with a response, "I guess because I was there." Some refer to this as a "dramatic pause" which is a misnomer. Dramatic pause refers to acting, poetry, or speech making. Pauses used by investigators subconscious signal the interviewee that more information is needed. Often people in a conversation will fill the silence with a response.
Taking a Break is where the investigator pauses the interview for an extended time period, often 5-10 minutes. Individuals that appear to be nervous, or are appearing to struggle with their answers, are the best candidates for taking an extended a break to get some coffee, or to move around. A break can ease a nervous individual, while someone who is struggling with their responses possibly from guilt, has a few minutes to think about what they will say when the interview continues. When an individual, such as a victim appears to be really emotional, taking a break allows them the opportunity to collect themselves, calm their emotions.
Quick questioning - Asking direct questions with a quick tempo is effective when the investigator feels that the individual is not being truthful about specific facts. NOTE: we are not talking about rapid fire, but asking a series of questions in quick succession. Often quick questioning is used during a review phase as a follow-up to questions already asked. Keeping a quick tempo of questioning often encourages the individual to respond honestly, although it is not a given that their responses are honest.
Overall, as an investigator conducting an interview, think of the interview tempo as a sine wave. The speed and emotions rise and lower during the interview. Controlling the tempo can assist in evoking additional responses, additional information from interviewee's. Again, it is important to receive training and when possible work with a skilled investigator to properly learn how to use controlling the interview tempo effectively.
Pro PI staff
Experienced professionals and trainers.