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How to Track Speech Patterns in Competitive Intelligence Interviews

As your interviewee is speaking in your competitive intelligence interview, try to tune in to speech patterns — anything about the person’s oral communication style that’s distinctive. For example, pedantic know-it-alls lecture listeners and don’t give them a chance to speak. Others speak very deliberately and slowly, taking time to carefully choose the words they use.

Changes in speech patterns can also help you interpret the overall meaning and gauge the truth of what someone is telling you.

As you listen, tune in to speech patterns and remain sensitive to the following indicators:

  • Nonstop talking: People who don’t give others the opportunity to get a word in edgewise are trying to control the conversation. You often see this in debates and news interviews. Control behaviors often accompany a lack of honesty.

  • Pauses: Pauses are difficult to interpret, because sometimes you can’t tell whether the person is pausing to construct an inauthentic answer or to consider the question and carefully word an accurate response. After several responses to different questions, you can begin to identify the significance of each pause.

  • Redirection: When someone doesn’t want to answer a question or discuss a particular topic, she’s likely to reinterpret the question and provide a response that really doesn’t answer it or that changes the subject. Redirection can sometimes be subtle, so listen carefully and constantly evaluate responses for relevance.

  • Emotional pitch: Changes in emotional pitch can tell you what a person is enthusiastic about, strongly believes in or against, feels defensive or confident about, and so on. Listen to the emotion behind the words.

  • Rehearsed responses: A rehearsed response sounds like canned laughter. It’s robotic. Regardless of what the subject is, you need to know that a rehearsed response is something of high importance to the speaker. When you hear a rehearsed response, dig deeper to find out what the person really thinks or what’s really going on.

  • Change in speech pattern: A change in the way someone speaks may indicate that she is genuinely more or less enthusiastic about something or nervous about something. If the person starts talking faster and seems more animated about one technology than another, for example, she probably prefers that technology to others under consideration.

Always match speech patterns with other messaging indicators, such as eye movement.

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