Marshawn Lynch

Challenging Respondents

Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch did what he felt was right following a game. Lynch has a history of not wanting to talk to the media, of electing to stay silent and keeping his pregame and post-game thoughts to himself.

Following a Nov. 16 game against the Kansas City Chiefs, Lynch strolled past reporters in the post-game locker room, refusing to answer questions. Lynch was fined $50,000 for that offense.

This video shows Lynch’s response to the fine, his response to the NFL’s job requirement, and requirement written in his contract.

Debate about the media reaction did not really interest me. I was drawn into the interview process, or attempt at an interview, that reminded me of challenging interview respondents that I have encountered in my decades plus experience conducting in depth interviews, focus groups, and panels for my clients. Moderators and interviewers need to be prepared for difficult respondents. Why did the reporters continue to run directly into the concrete wall? If there were more questions about the charity event, perhaps Lynch would have shed more light on the Cardinals defense, or not.

I asked Doug Keith, President of Future Research, an experienced and respected qualitative researcher, to share his thoughts on the “Yeah” Marshawn Lynch interview.

Doug Keith, you have seen the Lynch interview, what did you think, remind you of a challenging respondent? With the Marshawn Lynch interview, he actually gave them an opening when he started talking about his charity event.  Aside from just verifying the location, the reporters could have asked more about the charity, why it’s important to him, etc.  However, he was clearly staging a protest against the NFL by not answering, and the reporters probably thought it made a good story for them, too – “I asked the questions but he refused to answer”.

What are some examples of “difficult” interviewees that you can recall? There have been a number of instances where respondents have been challenging – angry, unresponsive, routinely getting off topic, etc.

What interviewing tactic would you have tried in this situation? I do a few things – build rapport at the beginning of the interview so I have a foundation of material to go back to, move on when someone clearly has had enough, sympathize with the difficulty of the material, give respondents an out if they seem uncomfortable, or simply redirecting when someone isn’t staying focused.  I also use humor a lot and share the occasional personal story to let them know I’m on their side.

Marshawn Lynch appeared on the NFL Network this past weekend to further clarify his reasoning for the now famous “Yeah” interview. Lynch was asked why he rarely speaks to reporters, something that caused him to get a fine from the NFL last month.

“I ain’t got nothing to say,” Lynch said. “All that is superficial to me. I just like to play football.”

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