Interrupting When/Why/How?

Hears Your Sign.

So there’s overlapping Q&A, they’re going a million words a minute, you’re misspelling easy words like here and hear because this situation is just completely unreportable! What do you do? Some of us may have said let the audio catch it. Today we will delve into why that may not be a very good idea at all. For the record, the time you should interrupt, the “when,” is that moment where you know you are not getting it. Why should you interrupt? If you didn’t hear it, what guarantees the audio heard it? What guarantees you will hear it when you play it back again, and again, and again? Face it, sometimes testimony is unreportable. Sometimes you will need to speak up and guard the record.

How do I do it?

All of us have different styles on how to interrupt. Please repeat that, sir. Please repeat that, ma’am. I’m sorry, please repeat that. I need a repetition. Anything that comes out of your mouth that is polite, professional, and assertive will get the job done. A few cautionary words: Avoid becoming overtly hostile or threatening. On the flip side of the coin, you must not be shy. Many a reporter has politely asked for a repetition and met a speaker all too happy to continue talking, ignoring the reporter either because they did not hear the reporter or were, themselves, hostile to the reporter. From experience, we know that the type of person that ignores your request for a repeat is the type of person that will ask for a read back and claim you’re inadequate because you could not take the testimony at 450 words per minute. Don’t feel bad about interrupting, it is often essential to making an accurate, readable record.

But What If It’s Me?

There comes a time in some reporting careers where we realize that we’re asking for repeats a lot. Maybe it’s at every job. Maybe it’s too many times per job. Whatever it is, we feel it in our gut. When this happens, the best course of action is to “check yourself.” Is something at the proceedings distracting you? Is something else in your life weighing on you and causing you to not pay your fullest attention? Do you need speed practice? Interruptions are a vital part of making the record just as much as always seeking to improve and perfect our mastery of the machine and listening in general.

Addendum. 12/23/2020. I may be revisiting this topic soon. I would like to amend the above slightly. Try to avoid overusing apologetic language. In the communication courses I have taken since writing this article, I’ve learned that apologetic language can be interpreted as a weak language, filler language, and can generally dilute your message. Ana Fatima Costa created a group called Speak Up For The Record on this topic.  “Counsel, please repeat that” or “Counsel, please direct the witness to repeat that” or even “Please repeat that” are all good ways to get it done.

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