A long, long time ago in a galaxy far, far away a very wise person taught me that being on air with another person is a great deal like being married. With that in mind, I was studying marriage and Dr. John Gottman when I realized that what he has found to be true about failed marriages can also be applied (and avoided) in on air teams. If you think about the teams that you like to listen to the most they let each other express themselves, speak to each other respectfully and are the first one to applaud when the other person does something great. Then think about what they don’t do and you will find the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Dr. John Gottman is a researcher in Washington state who has a 95% rate of correctly predicting whether a couple will get divorced or not. Applying his research findings, I feel very strongly that you can predict the success of an on air team within 6 months of putting them on the air.
The first is Criticism and applies when someone is “attacking your partner’s personality or character, usually with the intent of making someone right and someone wrong”. Honestly, there are some people in this world that thrive on this but in the studio a modicum of respect should reside so that no one is always right (or wrong). Contempt is the second horse and can be heard easily over the radio in the tone of a person’s voice. If you see your on air team using negative body language, sarcasm or hostile humor, it gives you a red flag for the future of the show. Perhaps one of the most difficult to combat is the third which is Defensiveness. Whining falls into this horseman of the apocalypse for your show as well as repeating yourself, yes-butting, cross-complaining and making excuses. The problem with Defensiveness behind the studio door is that you are warding off a perceived attack and may be the only one who sees you as the victim. When one member of an on-air team is in the victim role, tip toeing around them directly affects content.
Remembering that we are comparing on air teams to being married, the final horseman is the last straw in most marriages and extremely difficult to come back from. It is titled Stonewalling and kills any creative or kind moment that might take place in your on air studio. You may think you are trying to remain “neutral” but it comes across as smugness, a disconnection or being icy in any relationship. Examples include “stony silence, monosyllabic mutterings, changing the subject, and the silent treatment”. If you are reading this and wondering how you can keep your paycheck after acting this way, there are ways to avoid these actions. In the On Air Teams and the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse Part 2… coming soon.
Stacey is afternoon co-host at WGTS/Wash DC with her husband Johnny. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.