Like many March Madness enthusiasts, I recently watched the ESPN film about “The Fab Five,” the 1991-93 University of Michigan basketball team. In the film, Jalen Rose shared impressions he held as a teenager of Duke University, including his belief that they recruited “black players that were Uncle Toms.”
In response, Grant Hill, a Duke alum and Fab Five collegiate competitor, replied with a thoughtful piece in The New York Times. His words were poignant in defending his family and alma mater.
Social and traditional media responded with judgment-laced comments about Jalen's remarks. As a professional communicator I was intrigued, but not surprised, by the lack of coverage of his full statement, which included touching comments on his childhood jealousy of Grant Hill's family support. The genuineness of his commentary and the vulnerability behind his words lost out to the sensational.
So, what should you do if you are interviewed and you end up being featured less than favorably?
First, never agree to participate in a controversial interview if you don't have thick skin. You aren't going to win everyone over, so don't be surprised when you don't.
Second, never agree to an interview about an emotional point in your life without preparing yourself for the questions you dread, as well as the ones you hope to receive. Jalen had to know the questions about Duke would be asked. He had the choice to prepare an explosive response and did.
Third, define in advance what you are willing to defend (say that) and what you don't want to waste your time defending (don't say that). Not defining your boundaries leaves you vulnerable to blurting charged words that can insight emotional responses.
Finally, don't be afraid to apologize. As reported by NBC, the two men have found common ground again.
Teresa Valerio Parrot is SVP and leader of the higher education practice at Widmeyer Communications.