Leading and following: interview or conversation

Have you ever thought about leading and following as an interview? The partners speak the same language of functionally correct uses of their body to achieve shared movements in common (though happening at different times, perhaps). Yet, predominantly, the leader proposes questions that the follower answers.

At beginner levels, where both might (should) have the same movement vocabulary and understanding, the leader has responsibility for setting the direction, tone, pace, length, and more in the Q&A. Whereas a follower could merely give an unhelpful, taciturn “Yup” or “Nope” as answers. Challenged by the responsibility to not only generate the questions but also understand the answers and provide continuity, leaders face a greater challenge initially, and may as a result find themselves building a greater understanding of the dance in later stages.

As we think about great interviews we’ve seen and heard in sports, politics, entertainment, science, business, personal growth, or whatever, we recognize that they aren’t looking merely for direct answers to their questions. Rather, they seek to provoke opportunities for their partner to reveal themselves, their character, energy, past, present, and hopes for the future.

At high levels of the interview art, that provide rich, rewarding experiences for interview partners and onlookers alike, it may come to look less like an interview and more like a conversation. One may at times lose track of exactly who is directing the course of the conversation. Like the best advice for job interviews, we want to reveal not only our own story but also seek to learn something from their story.

These are among the considerations that lead to the Tango Tribe insistence that students of the dance learn both the leading and the following roles to a functional level, where they understand intention and reception, stepping and pivoting, and managing the three axes (mine, yours, and ours).

Neither one of us need speak at the level of a college professor, lawyer, or literati. Think of the power of Hemingway’s minimalist style. But we must reach a common level of understanding. Then, as we learn more about each other’s role, we can produce ever more rewarding conversations.

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