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“Word-Smithing” – 3 Words/Phrases to Avoid While Moderating

Posted on June 7, 2024 by brittany

Moderators play a big role when it comes to setting the tone for the research environment with their Respondents – whether that’s in a focus group, an IDI, or any QRE [qualitative research event]. How the Moderator enters the room, welcomes the Respondents, and interacts with them will factor into how the QRE will unfold and how deep the insights go.

While body position, tone, and clear communication are all important, another key factor in moderating a QRE is the words we say.

At RIVA, there are some words of phrases that we recommend avoiding during moderating.

  1. “Don’t worry…”
    This phrase is often used in these scenarios:
    “Don’t worry about the observers behind the mirror…” or “Don’t worry, this won’t end up on Youtube…”

    The problem with the phrase “don’t worry” is that it introduces a negative emotion into the room. (Think of it like when someone says “no pressure” right before you’re about to give a speech or something). It only puts the focus on whatever you’re trying to imply isn’t a big deal.

  2. “Couple of things…”
    I most often hear the phrase “I just have a couple of things to cover before we get started” in the Introduction stage of a QRE right before the Moderator delivers the ground rules or goes over the mics/observers/etc.

    “A couple” equals two. So, if you say “a couple,” then you should only be saying two things after that phrase. [Similarly, “a few” is three.] While seemingly trivial, you want to be clear in all communication to your Respondents.

  3. “Favorite”
    In most general circumstances, asking someone what their favorite X is seems to get a response outside of a research setting. However, some people find these types of questions difficult to answer. [For myself, my best example of this being a challenge is when someone asks me my favorite book – it’s too hard for me to answer… because this is entirely dependent on what parameters you set for the favorite book – I need to know what genre, if you mean favorite book that left an impression on me, if you mean a childhood favorite, etc.]

Like all best practices in moderating, your group won’t fail because you accidentally said any of these items but avoiding them goes a long way in creating the space for your Respondents to feel comfortable and give you the information you need.

Written by: Brittany Mohammed, Qualitative Training & Research Specialist at RIVA