Five Ways Media Training Can Improve Your Marriage

Can media training help your marriage?

Many of our trainees think so. They regularly quip that they should try the media training techniques we teach on their spouses back home.

To be clear, many media training techniques will not work well in your personal life. My wife wouldn’t react kindly, for example, if I told her that I’m not the appropriate spokesperson for her questions, but would be happy to refer her to someone else who could help. I suspect your spouse wouldn’t react positively to that either.

Still, there are at least five lessons from media training that can help improve your relationships. So for the first (and possibly last) time today, I’m going to nudge professionally trained counselors out of the way and delve into the realm of marriage therapy.

1. Pause Before Answering

For interviews that aren’t live, we teach trainees to pause for several seconds before answering questions. Pauses help spokespersons avoid saying the first thing that pops into their minds, and usually lead to sharper, more focused answers.

Pausing also helps slow the pace of heated interviews, allowing spokespersons re-gain control of their message and maintain a calm but firm tone. Anyone who’s ever argued with their spouse knows the value of taking a breath and slowing the pace.

2. Listen For The Underlying Issue

When reporters ask questions filled with accusatory language, good spokespersons know to listen for the underlying issue. For example, if a reporter asks why your company just experienced its third straight quarter of declining sales, the underlying question is probably, “Is your company in trouble?”

As Oprah Winfrey once said, fights about which spouse left the toilet seat up are rarely about the toilet seat itself. It’s usually about some underlying issue, probably one spouse feeling that they’re not being respected or listened to. Next time you argue with your loved one, try to listen for the subtext.

3. Don’t Go Off-Message

Ever notice what happens when you begin arguing? You suddenly introduce  less important points into the argument – and inevitably, your fight becomes about those secondary and tertiary points instead of the main subject that should command your full attention.

Once you go down the rabbit hole of an “everything but the kitchen sink” argument, it’s tough to crawl your way back out. Good media guests know not to get sidetracked by secondary points. If you do, those less important points may become your “headline” – and the thing your spouse most remembers about the argument.  

4. Watch Your Tone

Think about the last time you saw a media guest react angrily to a reporter’s question. What did you think of the spokesperson? Most people think: “What a jerk!”

In my experience, it’s not much different in personal relationships. If Mrs. Media Training (who has a ton of patience) complains to me about something I’ve done, I have two choices. One is to listen to her, acknowledge her concerns, and pledge to try harder. The other is to react defensively, which almost always leads to a more protracted disagreement than necessary. 

5. Apologize The Right Way

In the first few days of a corporate crisis, companies too often react by denying any wrongdoing. Then, after enduring days of terrible coverage, they quickly change strategies and issue a more remorseful statement. But by that point, they’ve suffered a lot of unnecessary, self-inflicted wounds. If you make a mistake, say so quickly. It usually shortens the severity of the crisis and allows you to move on.

Now, let’s just hope I can remember my own advice the next time I screw up….

I can’t promise you any more relationship advice – but I can promise you more tips to help make you a better media spokesperson and public speaker. Sign up for our monthly newsletter on the upper right hand corner of the blog!