There I was, sitting in a Starbucks in Tahoe, California drinking some delicious green concoction. It had just started snowing and it was absolutely magical outside. I wasn’t skiing because I had gotten hurt the day before, and I sort of wanted an excuse to start interviews. A woman walked in with her beautiful baby girl. The little girl and I got carried away playing a quality game of peek-a-boo that I almost forgot why I was sitting there in the first place! I asked the mother if she wouldn't mind being interviewed, and we ended up speaking for almost an hour!
The next man I interviewed seemed less inclined to divulge his personal information with me, mostly because I think he thought it was a random survey or something like that. Once I started asking him more personal questions, his answers were so interesting. Though this conversation was much shorter than the first interview, it was definitely insightful!
At some point, I'll post sneak peeks of the interviews for you all to see what the conversations feel like.
Here’s what I’ve learned so far from interviewing:
- Approaching strangers and asking them questions like, “What’s your greatest struggle right now?” “When was the happiest moment in your life?” “Was there ever a time you had a hard time forgiving someone?” makes them feel vulnerable.
- People don’t like to feel vulnerable. It’s a survival reflex to want to protect yourself and your personal information. Who am I to randomly approach people and ask them to share that with me? But remarkably, some people will! Some of the shyest people can gather enough courage to speak out about who they are and what they’ve been through. It’s almost easier to tell someone you’ve never seen before information you would not otherwise.
- Offering the people I interview an opportunity to reflect, to confess, to give me an impression of themselves on a clean slate, is cathartic for them. My behavior is key in making sure that they feel comfortable enough to do so. I can’t come off as too overbearing and I have to constantly make sure that they’re paying attention to talking to me and not my camera.
- Behind every broad answer is a killer personal story. For example, if I ask someone to tell me a piece of advice and they say something generic like, “Take risks,” or “Be confident,” I know that they’re feeling uncomfortable. Those are safe answers. “When was a time you took a risk?” “When was a time when you weren’t confident?” “How has that affected you personally?” are examples of follow-up questions I might ask. These follow-up questions then take away any safety net because suddenly the answer shrinks from broad to specific. Specificity means that we’ve reached a more personal level of conversation. That’s where the juicy, original stories are.
- Emotionally triggered questions like “When was the scariest moment in your life?” usually draws more interesting stories. We remember highly emotional events more vividly and can recreate them much better.
- It’s very difficult (impossible) to interview people while holding both a shotgun microphone and camera (tripod was in Tucson) and expect quality shots haha! I need my cameraman!