Topic 5 Conversations on sensitive topics

As mentioned, an interview with a guest can be a good way to bring sensitive topics up for discussion. Such an interview can be set up in different ways. It can be used to inform listeners about a difficult subject or to raise awareness. You can also use it to highlight someone’s personal story about a subject, this can make something that seems distant more relatable. By drawing up a script, you can enter the interview prepared.

In this exercise we are going to work in 6 steps on a short script for a podcast in which you have an in-depth interview about the topic you want to discuss.

Step 1: Think about who you want to interview about this. Why is this the right person to talk to?

Step 2: Decide what kind of interview you want to conduct and for what purpose. Also, do you have a guiding question?

Step 3: Get to know your guest and their involvement with the topic. Can you introduce your guest in a few sentences?

Step 4: Think of four relevant open-ended questions for your guest on the topic. In doing so, also think about a question that breaks the ice. 

Step 5: Pay attention to the structure. Do the questions flow logically into each other? How much time do you want to spend on each question?

Step 6: Think about how you will bring the interview to an end? Do you want to ask your guest or audience something before the end?

Have you finished the outline of your script? Then practice it with someone close to you and ask for feedback. Remember that the script offers a guideline and you do not have to stick to it rigidly. It will make for a more meaningful conversation if you maintain the necessary flexibility and openness.

In this module we are focussed on opening up conversations around sensitive topics, therefore we want to give particular attention to how we might approach an interview or conversation on a topic like this.

There are a few things to think about here: preparation, language, and attitude


You will want to be well-prepared for an interview on a sensitive topic. As discussed earlier. This preparation would likely include speaking to your interviewee in advance to understand their perspective on the topic, to ask them if there are areas they are not comfortable discussing, and to give them a chance to review the kinds of topics you hope to discuss.


Words can be very powerful. A  word or phrase that appears neutral or insignificant to you may carry layers of meaning for others, some of which could be experienced as offensive or patronising. Think about the key words and concepts you will be touching on in your interview as well as the formulation of your questions, could any of them carry meanings that you don’t intend?  If you are using more controversial terminology it can be helpful to explain what you mean by it during the interview, don’t assume you understand the same thing as your guest or your a.


In addition to language, your attitude is important. It is important that you show genuine interest in your guest and actively listen to what they have to say. Your guests will surely sense if you are being sincere in your approach. They will feel whether or not your are truly listening to what they are saying or if you are more busy thinking about your next question. Also consider non-verbal communication. It is important to adopt an open posture and look at the guest during the conversation, this demonstrates interest. Also be aware of how you ask your (follow-up) questions and respond. Do you give the guest enough space to tell their story? Are you controlling the conversation too much? What will you do if you notice you start to feel defensive or frustrated during the conversation?


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