If you want someone to tell you more

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TV detective Colombo was famous for his trench coat, cigar, and glass eye, but even more famous for the way he would get witnesses to reveal things they didn’t intend to reveal.

At the end of the interview, everyone would stand up and get ready to leave, the witness would relax, and just when they thought they’re in the clear, Colombo would turn to them with his trademark, “Just one more thing”.

He would catch the witness off guard and often find out something he could use to solve the crime.

It wouldn’t surprise me to learn that you do something similar when you interview a witness, prospective juror, or anyone else who isn’t being forthcoming.

Many ex-purts tell us to prompt witnesses who don’t say much with, “tell me more,” “what happened next,” or other questions designed to get them to continue talking.

It turns out there’s an even simpler way to get people to tell you more.

Silence.

After someone has answered a question or volunteered information, don’t “fill the empty space” by asking another question–break eye contact, turn to your notes, and say nothing.

Often, a few seconds of silence is so uncomfortable for the witness, they’ll continue talking.

Sometimes, they volunteer precisely the information you were looking for, the very thing they didn’t want you to know.

And you can leave your raincoat and cigar at home.

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