Interview and Interrogation Training: Rationalizing Without Minimizing

WZ / IAI Interviewing Tip of the Week

This week’s International Association of Interviewers interview and interrogation training tip provided by Wicklander-Zulawski, has Dave Thompson, CFI, vice president of operations for WZ, talking about the importance of rationalizing without minimizing.

Often, you’ll talk to a subject who has something that they’re resistant to share. One of the number-one reasons they don’t want to tell the truth is that it might cause further embarrassment. Telling the truth could also increase other fears that subject might have.

An important thing for a subject to be able to do is to save face when telling the truth.

In a related sense, it’s like your New Year’s resolution to eat better. All of a sudden, you’ve had a piece of cake or some other type of dessert. Now, you know that you had that piece of cake or dessert because you know you’re just not committed to your diet. But if people ask you, “Why did you have that dessert?”, then, at least in our minds, we can tell ourselves how “it was only one time this week” or “I’ve already lost three pounds, so I should reward myself.” Or, “Everyone else was having cake; I didn’t want to be rude.”

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What we’re really doing is rationalizing our actions, which allows us to save face and avoid feeling worse than we already did. An important part in rationalizing during an interview or interrogation is that rationalization does not remove moral responsibility or show or suggest any signs of leniency towards your subject.

For example, using words like “accident” or “mistake” when describing why someone did something they shouldn’t normally do allows somebody to call their behavior a mistake (“Well, it was a mistake; I didn’t mean to do it.”). This thereby removes intent and removes consequences.

So it’s important that while we want to allow our subject to save face, that we don’t cross that line into showing any signs of leniency, making any promises, or, eliminating any consequences that still may come, based off their actions.


Every loss prevention investigator should strive to enhance their investigative interviewing skills as part of an ongoing commitment to best-in-class interviewing performance. This includes holding ourselves to an elite standard of interview and interrogation training that is ethical, moral and legal while demanding excellence in the pursuit of the truth. The International Association of Interviewers (IAI) and Wicklander-Zulawski (WZ) provide interview and interrogation training programs and additional guidance to investigators when dealing with dishonest employees, employee theft, sexual harassment, policy violations, building rapport, pre-employment interviewing, lying, denials and obtaining a statement.

By focusing on the latest information and research from experts in the field as well as academia, legal and psychological resources, these video tips provide interview and interrogation training techniques that can enhance the skill sets of professionals with backgrounds in law enforcement, loss prevention, security, asset protection, human resources, auditors, or anyone looking to obtain the truth.

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