“They’re going to ask you whether chivalry is dead. You’ll tell them you still believe in old-fashioned values and that there is still courtship in the dating scene,” explained the charity’s director of development. She was prepping me for a live group interview with the local news channel. It was ultimately a marketing piece to garner a larger crowd for the upcoming charity dating raffle. The feature would showcase the director and some fellow bachelorettes.
I decided I couldn’t accept that response. “If that’s what you want, you should get another bachelorette to interview. I think the answer is more complicated, so I don’t feel comfortable saying that.” For years, whenever I’d asked guys out, I would typically pick up the tab. This doesn’t mesh with the traditional idea of “chivalry”, but most of my dates didn’t mind when I did the asking or the paying.
In fact, I had a few problems with her suggested script. As I already mentioned, I don’t think it’s true. Also, I object to someone dictating my opinion to me without even bothering to hear my thoughts on the matter. She could have listened to my ideas and then offered feedback so that the message would better accomplish the overall goal of the interview.
Most importantly, I found her response boring. It lacked originality. It would help move the conversation forward but add little substance or personality. In my opinion, it defeated the primary purpose of a marketing interview. People don’t attend an event if they hear generic, mundane chatter. They come to be entertained and to experience something outside the normal routine. In other words, they want to hear something new, and I was intent on providing it.
The director seemed annoyed with my resistance. “Ok, just say something. Look pretty and be charming.”
Fast forward to us sitting down opposite the local news anchors, bright lights shining on our faces and cameras rolling. We’re approaching the end of the interview, and I haven’t said a peep. So far, the director and other bachelorette had been bantering with the news anchors. I already had some experience with TV interviews, but a live broadcast is a completely different beast. As the interviewee, you must be prepared in that moment for anything, good or bad, that is thrown your way. I’d bided my time in this interview, but I knew whichever way the conversation moved next, I would meet it head-on.
News Anchor 1: “These events are great, even if you don’t get a date. It’s still networking whether you find a job or a relationship.”
News Anchor 2: “True, maybe you just find a really good friend from it.”
Me: “Oh, I think being single is the best part of the social scene here,” I announced with my signature hearty laugh.
NA2 perked up: “Look at that smile!”
NA1: “Ear to ear, Michael!”
Me: “I feel like we’re finally done with this time where we had this Jerry Maguire BS of ‘you complete me.’ That you can be on your own, and you can be proud of that. I think as a single woman-“
NA1: “Jacquelyn, I want to have a glass of wine with you.”
Me: “As a single independent woman, I’m proud to be on my own journey. And if I find a man who has something to bring to the table, he is welcome to ride shotgun with me.”
NA1: <Walked over and high fived me>
NA2: “I was just about to do that!”
Would I have performed as well in the interview if I had agreed to her initial narrative? I don’t think so. I stuck to these principles, and they served me well:
- Be engaging. Be aware of the importance of stage presence. Every day we’re being accosted with countless news articles, social media posts, and advertisements competing for our attention. Make your message stand out by delivering it in a way that is unique and memorable.
- Communicate thoughts clearly and succinctly. Some people turn lamentably loquacious when really they’re only supposed to have the spotlight for fifteen seconds. Remember the often-quoted adage, “If I had more time, I would have written a shorter letter.” For any form of communication, more does not always mean better. In some instances, it can dilute the message.
- Don’t compromise your values to suit a narrative. When I was asked to give a predetermined response that didn’t align with my values, I pushed back. I extended my realm of influence by refusing to accept a narrative that didn’t fit with my authentic self.
After the fundraising event, I found out that I had received the most tickets and thereby helped raise the most charitable funds out of all the bachelorettes. While that was flattering, I realized that there was a more important point to be made. If you are comfortable enough with yourself to turn your thoughts into words, that will resonate with people. I had the confidence to express myself openly and honestly. I showed them a piece of my authentic self, and in my experience, there’s nothing more attractive than that.
Jacquelyn Adams, an IEEE Senior member, is a nationally-recognized leader in employee learning and development. Jacquelyn is the CEO and Founder of Ristole, a consulting business that transforms corporations through engaging employee training. Find more of her Lessons on Leadership columns here.