Get A Sense


My blood pressure boils just about every time I catch myself stupidly listening to BBC phone-in radio. In the aftermath of the weekend’s N London riots and looting, they even had a fella call in who’s first words, to a panel of black community leaders no less, were; ‘I notice that all the rioters are black’. I was then pretty sure a violent brawl was imminent in the studio itself. Incredible.

The next lamb to the slaughter was from the local police board. Her thankless task was to defend the absence of water cannon. As an aside I was immediately reminded of how it is way easier to get what you want when you mask your true views to let people contradict you. Which they both love and prefer to do.

Anyway, the MP for Walthamstow was then asked how large the latest mob of retail park raiders were in her constituency. She was wary of giving a precise number.

Oh, how I recognised the awkward wriggle of the interviewee from solution sales situations. Trying to eke out a key number from a prospect as they mistakenly try and keep their cards close to their chest. The presenter pressed her by asking whether it was hundreds or dozens. Still hesitant, he then cornered her with this line;

I’m not trying to push you into a figure, I’m just trying to get a sense of the numbers involved

She instantly responded with, “it’s not hundreds”. The conversation then flowed effortlessly on. Well, as smoothly as any BBC talk show can repulsively progress.

I’ve blogged on this divulgence reluctance a few times before (even over five years ago). My normal tactic is to offer a trio of prompts. One laughably high, another ridiculously small, then something in the middle closer to where I suspect reality lies.

This approach though, of “just trying to get a sense” worked so well in the furnace of radio vitriol – and using just two poles – that it’s surely a worthwhile addition to the tease-out and reveal lexicon.

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