Last year, I returned to following the NHL after an extended time away. I came back because of a chance to play fantasy hockey. I had no idea who Crosby or Ovechkin were.
I took an auto draft and ended up with some guy named Evgeni Malkin. I would learn he was in good company with guys like Henrik Zetterberg and Marian Gaborik. I did not pay much attention those first few weeks, not realizing the powerhouse I had.
One thing I did notice was Evgeni Malkin. After noticing his hockey, I checked into the person. One problem with fantasy hockey is that it is not personal.
We add and drop players, faceless names, every week, moving toward our own agenda, not taking time to think about the person behind the stats. I am guilty as charged.
What I discovered about Malkin was that I understood him as a person. I also live in a foreign country and have climbed my way through a new language. I understand the overwhelming feeling of getting through everyday life.
He is now giving interviews in English, and this is pretty much how it plays out: He goes to the locker room has a moment to catch his breath and then deals with the swarm of reporters.
He starts out confident, answers a question or two and then starts to falter, relying on standardized responses, his eyes shift in discomfort and he gets overwhelmed, soon after the interview ends.
So what is the problem? Actually, it is not all Malkin’s doing. A big part of the struggle lies with the style of the locker room ambush.
As your official English as a Foreign or Second Language (EFL/ESL) guru, I am now offering my services, explaining how to get a better interview from a non-native speaker of your own language, in this case English (NOTE: American is not a language).
Want the interview? Check this out.
One: Make eye contact on eye level. Do not look down at the interviewee. Standing over a person puts you in a control or power position and gives a feeling of condescension. I always crouch down to be on or below eye level with my students. This creates rapport.
Two: Pretend to have sympathy even if you do not. Try using a word or two in your subject's own language. Here is a freebie: здравстуите [zdrast-vooy-tye—hello]. Work on your Russian pronunciation; say this to Malkin in a loud, clear voice and I can guarantee you will get instant eye contact and a smile.
You will be the picture of comfort and safety. Do not worry, he’ll find out the truth soon enough, but he has seen effort on your part and the door is now open.
Three: More sympathy, please. Give eye contact that says you understand, even if you are reading the person’s expressions and gestures to piece together what they mean. Also, nod and show agreement and drink the person in with your eye contact. Never stop looking at them, even if they look away, your intensity will bring them back. I use this all the time to get noticed by my bosses, etc. It works.
Four: Less is more. Use as few words as possible to ask your questions. Save the adjectives and metaphors for the write up later. The less time a person has to take to process vocabulary, the more time they have to give a solid, thought-out answer.
Five: Slow down. Which is better, content or a safe catch phrase the person has picked up from getting asked the same thing over and over? If you slow down and give the subject time, you will get the quote.
Six: After you get the eye contact, repeat your question, still speaking slowly. This is not just about your international subject, this is about you.
Try these suggestions for a few interviews and before you know it, you will have a friend waiting for you in the locker room. I am a novice in Russian. I am very good at greeting my Russian-speaking-only friend with a smile and at saying здравствуйте. We have rapport even if we have nothing else.
NOTE: I know there is a rush in the locker room, and time is of the essence, so you need to choose what is important, something old or something new.