The Difference Between Hosts and Talking Heads

Posted on March 1, 2012


Don’t ask me why but I recently watched an episode of “Today,” the morning show on NBC.  For a cynic like me that’s a lot of sugary sweet content to swallow but there was one segment in particular that caught my attention about how often married couples argue and how to better communicate with your spouse.

As a veteran of all sorts of counseling, including some of the marital variety, I was curious to see how advice from the big time television counselors compared to what I’ve been told.

Cut to a shot of Ann Curry sitting with two counselors, one female and one male. Every time Curry asks a question the woman essentially suggests bribing the husband with sex — or threatening to withhold it — to make the argument go away.

For example, when it comes to dirty dishes being left in the sink the counselor suggests a woman tell her husband that it makes her feel more like a maid than a wife and, of course, maids don’t sleep with the man of the house.

That’s terrible advice. It doesn’t help the couple communicate or solve problems and after a while the idea of dangling sex as a carrot will wear thin.

But the point of this post isn’t to analyze the advice being given, it’s to discuss the difference between being a host and a talking head like Curry. She sat there and  listened to this bad advice never once questioning it.

I know it’s “Today” where softball questions are the norm and confrontation is probably frowned upon.

Radio hosts on the other hand have no such boundaries. I’m not suggesting you argue with every guest but I am saying you have a responsibility to not just blindly accept whatever a guest says.

A good host is always actively listening to the guest and thinking about follow-up questions that probe deeper into what the person is saying.

I wanted Curry to call her out and say, “wait, that seems like bad advice,” but she didn’t.

That was frustrating and I don’t really care what these “experts” had to say.

Remember that the next time you do an interview. Your listeners are out there with questions they want asked. You have to be their voice. That’s the difference between being a host and a talking head.