Stop Asking Questions
“Over the years, whenever I struggled to get somebody to be open in an interview, I would wonder what I did wrong and I’d look at it and I’d say, ‘What was I trying to do?’ And then I’d go back and try to do it better.” – Andrew Warner
Andrew Warner has found the secret that guarantees his podcast interviewees will open up — and that is to join the resistance.
Every time Andrew found himself trying, and failing, to get a story out of someone who, on the surface, didn’t share any problems they were facing, he would tell them it was amazing talking to them — which led them to question that reflection of their words and, in turn, open up on issues they didn’t realize were bothering them.
Over 2,000 interviews later, Andrew wrote “Stop Asking Questions: How to Lead High-Impact Interviews and Learn Anything from Anyone,” which he discusses on this week’s episode of “Authors Who Lead,” as well as how to be better at interviewing and communicating with others.
How “Stop Asking Questions” Was Born
For about a year, Andrew agreed to say “yes” to any opportunity, as long as it was a small project — like writing, and then re-writing, a chapter of his friend’s book.
Through that process, he unlocked an unexpected love for writing and found an editor to help him with his own book. Week after week, he wrote and shared with his editor, who gave him other assignments when he felt stuck. The combination of the two, along with a set of tips he wrote for himself years prior, becomes the basis of his book.
Working with an editor consistently showed Andrew that he likes the camaraderie and accountability that comes from collaborating with others.
“I realized that when someone else is looking, you can’t hide from your inability to produce,” he told me during our interview.
The COVID-19 pandemic also played a role, Andrew explained. For most authors, the global shutdown either helped or hindered their creativity and drive while writing their books. In his case, “the pandemic definitely helped,” he said.
For Andrew, who is normally a very social person, he found himself unable to do what he loved, like going into the office and socializing with friends and family. Because he already had the idea for his book, he decided he might as well write it now that he couldn’t leave the house. With open-ended time and accountability from his editor, his years-long dream finally got off the ground.
How to Go Beyond Just Asking Questions
Andrew wanted this book to serve as a “legacy project” — for it to be helpful and memorable, left behind for both his family and his audience. He decided to look at interviews where he had struggled to get someone to open up to him, and ask what he could have done differently.
“We can all get better based on what worked for us in the past,” he said.
His reflections allow others to integrate the lessons he’s learned from years of speaking with his interviewees, and in helping them tell their stories. When asking questions, remember that most people want to be heard by you, rather than offered a solution.
They appreciate you asking those questions about how they got there, or did the thing, and then guiding them into their story. Not only does this benefit the audience listening to the story, the guests also have the time, right then and there, to reflect on the story they’re sharing.
Getting Unstuck During Interviews
It’s important to keep improving in every area of our lives.
As podcasters, we are always striving to be relevant and give value to our listeners. While Andrew offers a lot of advice in his book that will help us improve our craft and businesses, he recommends that we keep scheduling and producing interview after interview, which creates opportunities to take action.
If you are a podcaster wanting to improve your interviews, or just wanting better communication with others, start by reading Andrew’s book, and keep in mind my greatest takeaways from our conversation:
- Stay curious when you interview because you really want to know and listen to what the person has to say.
- Take the interview techniques that you’ve learned and apply them during the podcast.
- If you find the right motivation, you can reach out to anybody and get them to say “yes,” even to be interviewed by you for your book or podcast.
If you’re willing to put in the work and learn, you will get better at interviewing and connecting with people — and ultimately have great success. And if you have a podcast in your heart and haven’t started one, there’s never a better time to actually do it.
What was your biggest takeaway from this episode? Do you have powerful goals for your podcast or business, but feel like you’ll never succeed? Share in the comments below!
That’s all for this week. Everyone can benefit by learning how to better communicate. So get out there and start your podcast, or write your book, today!