I was working with one of my favorite authors at a convention and had some down time before his next interview. Os Guinness is not just an author but a historian and theologian as well. I had a question for him. “How do you handle the accolades people give you?” Without skipping a beat he leaned back and laughed, “I just never thought that much of myself!” His website underscores his words, “A quiet voice on behalf of faith, freedom, truth, reason, and civility.”

Os Guinness speakingIn a world where the loudest (or stupidest) voices seem to garner the most attention, few people have the sense that Guinness has, to let their reason and civility prevail. Christian pastor and writer, Steve Brown says, “Wise and successful communicators will always realize that they aren’t half as good as those who applaud are implying, aren’t half as bad as those who criticize might suggest.” I agree. Humility is always a greater strength than is arrogance.

As someone who does interviews or is involved in the interview process, there are elements that can ruin an interview. Here is a look at some of these.

  1. Try to impress the host or audience rather than communicate. A college English teacher once told me the idea of good writing is not to impress with big words (intellectualize) but help people understand what you want to say.
  2. Be stoic and show little or no emotion. If you aren’t excited about your book or topic I guarantee no else will be either.
  3. Quote the Bible often to show how Biblically literate you are. There are times this may be helpful but these times are rare during any interview. As the old saying goes, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”
  4. Don’t listen to the questions. By the way, this happens in marriages all the time. That’s why a good therapist will ask couples to repeat what they just heard a spouse say. You can’t do this in interviews but you can be “others-directed” and listen well.
  5. Disrespect the host or audience. We use the word rapport to describe good communication between people or groups. This is simply a close and harmonious relationship in which the people or groups concerned understand each other’s feelings or ideas and communicate well. Disrespect inevitably destroys rapport.
  6. Be unprepared. Show up late or forget to have your book or notes ready for an interview. Some authors I know are proud to say they “wing it.” Avoid this attitude.
  7. Be inflexible. This means staying so focused on your needs you fail to recognize the needs of the host or audience.

There were other questions I asked Guinness that day, some that were far less profound than others, like whether he was related to the Guinness Brewing family. The answer to that is yes. Now you know. Who knew that brewing beer would be seen as an act of service to help stave off widespread drunkenness of the day? And who knew that generations of his family would serve as missionaries funded in part by the profits?