This was written as part of the rough draft for Deploy Empathy, a practical guide to interviewing customers.
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In Chris Voss’s Never Split the Difference, he suggests using a “Late Night DJ voice” in a negotiation.
“You’re listening to the smooth sounds of WBMT 88.3 FM…”
Therapists will often speak in soft, slow voices as a form of co-regulation to calm their patients.
These techniques help put the other person at ease and create an environment where they feel safe.
A customer interview should be conducted in the most harmless voice you can possibly muster.
Imagine you are asking a treasured older family member about a photo of themselves as a young person. There might be:
- A gentle, friendly tone of voice
- A softness to your tone
- Genuine, judgement-free curiosity
Or perhaps picture that a close friend has come to you experiencing a personal crisis in the middle of the night. You would listen to them, calmly, and just try to figure out what was going on. You probably wouldn’t start offering ideas or solutions to their problem, and would focus on helping them get back to a clearer state of mind.
Use that same gentleness in your customer interviews.
It’s important to note, though, that you cannot be condescending. I purposefully do not say to speak to them like you would a child, because people have very different ways of talking to children.
Think of your customer as someone you respect and you can learn from.
“Why would you do it that way!” said in a medium-volume voice with emphasis on certain words could make it sound accusatory and put them on the defense, versus “Can you tell me more about why you do it like that?” in a gentle, unassuming, curious voice will help them open up.