- Uno: Build rapport. You need to develop an atmosphere of trust with the person you are talking with. If they don’t trust you, do you really think they will tell you everything?
- Dos: Establish their baseline. Their baseline is the behavior (verbal, non-verbal, tone, physiological, etc) that they normally have during communication. This should be developed during the rapport phase while getting them comfortable talking with you. If you don’t understand their own patterns and ways they communicate, how will you identify any changes in their baseline which may need further questioning?
- Tres: Ask open questions. Most people (investigators included) are conditioned to ask closed, specific questions. Asking open questions such as “Tell me everything that happened” and let them talk without interruption, is much more effective at gathering and assessing information than closed, leading or suggestive questions. Also, probe their story with open questions such as “Tell me more about that…” “What happened next…” “You said XYZ, what do you mean?” etc.
- Cuatro: Listen. During an interview, many interviewers are so focused on their questions that when the person is answering one question, they are thinking about what they are going to ask next. This causes a lot of information to be missed by the interviewer. It also demonstrates to the person that you are talking with that you are not really interested in what they have to say. Ask open questions and really listen to what they are saying. Then ask follow-up questions based on what they said to dig deeper into their story, develop information and show that what they have to say is important and that you are listening.
- Cinco: Follow-up. Whether you are talking with a victim, witness or a suspect, follow-up on what they say and try and corroborate their information from other sources. Information from an interview or interrogation often leads to new evidence, but only if you take the time to follow up and follow through.
If you are in law enforcement, join me at the Concord Police Department in Concord, MA on June 11th and 12th, 2015, for training on "Effective Interviewing Strategies"