How to Challenge and Confront

George Stephanopoulos

Lesson time 16:00 min

A journalist’s job is to ask tough questions. George teaches how to hold others accountable for their words or actions. He shares techniques for challenging them directly and respectfully, and explains how disagreements can be extra revealing.

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Topics include: How To Challenge and Confront * Ask The Tough Questions and Don't Make It Personal * Create Space for the Answer * When to Interrupt * Getting Answers * The Counter: Defending Yourself


[MUSIC PLAYING] GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: This bill by Senator Baucus is a big middle-class tax increase. Do you agree, and does that mean you can't sign it? What part of you is thinking, I helped elect Donald Trump? Back in July, you said a Taliban takeover was highly unlikely. Was the intelligence wrong or did you downplay it? It's important to hold anyone in a position of authority accountable. You know, that goes certainly in interviews. When you're talking to the President of the United States, the Speaker of the House, the Leader of the Senate. It's your job as an interviewer to be a proxy for the voters, for the viewers, and hold the decision-makers accountable for the decisions they make. But it also applies to everyone in their everyday life. Sometimes, you know, as a parent you have to hold your kids accountable. Sometimes as a-- you get held accountable by your spouse. It works both ways in any workplace situation. Sometimes, you know-- and this is not easy. Sometimes it's important for a subordinate to hold their boss accountable for decisions they made and, of course, vise versa as well. So learning how to do it in a clear, respectful manner, I would even say in a compassionate manner, I think is important. The best way to throw away your fear in an interview is to remember why you're there. It goes back to what I was saying about not making interviews about yourself. You know, often my toughest questions are questions that I know need to be asked for the people who are watching at home. And knowing that you're doing it for that reason helps eliminate at least some of the fear. Now, it's still not a very natural thing. It's not a very natural thing to be 3 feet away from a president of the United States or a Senator or a member of Congress or a police chief and asking them a tough question. Luckily for me, based on all of my experience, it's something that, over time, I got used to and became comfortable with. But I think part of the reason I'm able to ask what I think are tough questions is that I don't make it personal, or I do my best not to make it personal. Do my best not to question someone's motivations but to question their actions, and to talk about the consequences of their actions, and to compare what they're doing now to what they said they would do when they were running for office or what they've said in the past. All of that, I think, is fair. All of that is fair game. And if it's done in a respectful manner, it gets the job done, and it doesn't-- when you're lucky, create an enemy. I used to wrestle back in high school and college. And I remember every time I'd interview Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, it felt like I was back on the mat. He was a high school and college wrestler. He was actually a great wrestler. He was a great wrestler in college. I was as mediocre as they come. But every single time I interviewed him-- and it was probably a dozen times over the course...

About the Instructor

Legendary interviewer and broadcaster George Stephanopoulos has navigated challenging interviews for more than 30 years—as former White House communications director and presently as co-anchor of Good Morning America. Now he’s teaching you how to project confidence under pressure and draw the best value from your own professional and personal interactions, becoming a stronger, more intentional communicator.

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George Stephanopoulos

Award-winning interviewer George Stephanopoulos teaches you his techniques for producing authentic, meaningful conversations.

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