It's not easy to be quiet and humble and see others without previous judgment. However, we've got some good news for you. The ability to understand each other as human beings in a way that transcends our egos has always been a matter of importance throughout the history of our species. We're always trying to make sense of our environment and of other people; that's just how we've been wired! We are programmed to find meaning in the world around us. The only thing left for us to do, then, is to strengthen that power!
It's like Bob Johansen said in his book, Get There Early:
We, humanity, have always been looking for ways to understand each other better--so we dig deeper, break things apart, explore our cultures, identities, and lifestyles. We see it everywhere! We see reporters interviewing others; we see ethnographers and anthropologists using their tools. We want to understand!
We would like to encourage you to create the opportunities you need to know people a bit better and see the world through their eyes instead of yours. We want to share with you an exercise to start interviewing people, which you can learn through practice and self-reflection.
Choose a subject that interests you, and make a list of people that you'd like to interview (they need to be related to the topic of your choosing, directly or indirectly).
It's go time!
See the world through their eyes
What subject would you like to explore?
Who do you think might be able to shed some more light on this matter for you?
Now that you've picked a subject and that you've chosen your interviewee list, it's time to prepare!
- Find out as much information as you can about the person you will interview. Do your homework.
- Clearly identify the purpose of this interview since you will tell your interviewee about it when the time is right.
- Keep your eyes and ears open! Take this opportunity with gratitude; it's a serious affair.
- Don't stray from the subject you chose! Don't forget to bring a list of questions you'd like to ask! If the conversation goes elsewhere and you're not receiving any relevant information, then steer your discussion back home.
- Ask to be told stories, examples, and details!
- Don't put your words in other people's mouths. Your job is to get your interlocutor to speak.
- Let your mind flow! Make connections and take notes.
- Keep it simple. This is not an exercise on all the questions you can make, nor is it about asking very detailed questions. Much is said non-verbally, and there is much to be read between the lines.
Use the following matrix when working on your questions--or use it during the interview if you prefer! It will help you keep your notes organized and the questions you want to ask at sight.
Here are some question ideas to aid you in this experiment.
- Can you tell me what you mean when you use that word?
- Would you put some bones on that idea for me?
- Can you tell a story to illustrate that?
- Where do you trace the earliest roots of your passion for this conversation?
- Why are you here? What longing or curiosity made you say yes to this invitation?
- What hope and fear do you bring to this conversation?
- How might we…. (establish action / subject / outcome)
Now, it's time to practice. Go out there and recollect stories and new lenses to see the world.
Share your experience, insights, and questions about the topic with us in the comment section. We will be glad to be in touch with you.
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