The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]

What Planners And Police/Military Interrogators Could Have Learned From My Mum …

For a long time, I’ve talked about the importance of empathy.

In fact I regard it as the most important trait I look for in a planner.

That’s right, empathy … not curiosity.

As my Mum used to say, ‘being interested in what others are interested in’ is the foundation of forging real understanding … understanding that lets you gain real insight that leads to work that doesn’t just resonate, but is both authentic and sincere to the core.

I recently took my team through the original ‘Thank You Mom’ work I was involved with at Wieden for P&G.

In essence, there were 2 roles the planning departments of W+K had.

The first was to find a point of view for P&G’s Olympic sponsorship that was authentic rather than falling into that trap of being ‘the proud sponsor of razor blades for athletes’ etc etc.

However, once it had been identified that P&G could genuinely claim to helping the Mum’s of athletic hopefuls in their role of being supportive Mum’s, the rest of our job was to ensure the work we produced was authentic to the regions we were going to cover … the UK, the US, China and Brazil.

It took a long time, a lot of meeting, watching, listening and chatting [in fact the little film I made from it all to help the client and creatives really understand our Mum’s is still one of the best things I made at Wieden] but it made all the difference because while some elements of the film may be lost to viewers of other nations [ie: Westerners thought the Chinese Mum who watched her child win via a TV in her home did it because she couldn’t afford to go to the event, when the reality is we had learned parents wouldn’t attend key events for fear of afraid of adding extra pressure to their beloved child with their presence] the fact is those within each culture we featured connected to the little nuances we were able to reveal which led to work that felt part of the culture rather than just being an observer of it.

The reason I am saying all this is because I recently read an amazing article about interrogation techniques, or more specifically, how the interrogation techniques favoured by the Police and military are wrong.

Now I am not suggesting interrogation techniques are anything similar to how we find out our insights about people … but the learnings are.

You see what a team of scientists discovered is that rather than intimidating individuals in the hope of getting them to reveal their information, the secret was to show genuine empathy towards them.

Not in what they did or tried to do.

Not in their cause or their ideology.

But in why all of it was important to them.

In essence, they discovered empathy – rather than intimidation – was the closest thing we have to a truth serum.

Or said another way, be interested in what others are interested in.

Another reason [for me] to say Thank you Mom.

[Read the article here]


I believed in the power of empathy the moment I witnessed your uncanny ability to get colleagues to reveal their secrets to you, even though they knew you would use it for humiliating purposes.

Comment by DH

its not empathy its satans witchcraft. how else does it fucking explain why people still spill their shit to him after they know what sort of of prick he is.

Comment by andy@cynic

How do you think I keep getting employed?

Comment by Rob

Good to see you finally admitting to blackmailing people.

Your finest strategy.

Comment by DH

you can take the manipulative bastard out of nottingham but you cant blah blah fucking blah.

Comment by andy@cynic

Great pic of your mother by the way.

Comment by DH

yes. cant even slag the post off if i wanted to. which makes it four days in a fucking row. what a way to make me end my year on a fucking low.

Comment by andy@cynic

That’s because she was a great person.

But we all know that.

Comment by Rob

Another brilliant read Robert.
The key, as you point out, is to recognize the difference between empathy and listening. From my perspective few people do with most preferring to hear only what they want to hear rather than connect to what the other person is communicating.
It is why your P&G example is so good and why I would have misunderstood the meaning of the parent watching their child perform from the comfort of home.
It has been a great week of posts Robert. Thank you.

Comment by George

Your gratitude would be appreciated more in terms of cash.

Comment by Rob

havent you fucking stiffed us for enough you money grabbing bastard. but auntie g is good for it so fuck him.

Comment by andy@cynic

Being interested in what others are interested in may be one of the best pieces of advice for business and society ever documented. I thoroughly enjoyed this post and the linked article. I hope 2018 carries on where you are leaving off.

Comment by Lee Hill

his mum said this, not him. its bad enough ive liked the shit hes spouted this week without giving him additional fucking credit.

Comment by andy@cynic

Given that he’s leaving off with no posts for two weeks ….

Comment by John

It’s a christmas miracle.

Comment by DH

But is it as effective as lying and bullying ?
Based on Trump, I’d say no.

Comment by Billy Whizz

hope it fucking does because that prick is the ultimate terrorist.

Comment by andy@cynic

Perhaps a nice X-mas stocking filler for the readers of this blog:
Chris Voss’ book: Never split the Difference..

Takes some of the theory of that article and makes it more civilian practical

Comment by Niko

That’s a great book, I really enjoyed it.

Comment by Rob

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