Discuss: This might get personal

These nine principles for interviewing people about tender, personal, tough subjects are tactics that are helpful in any hard conversation. You want to be clear about your objectives for the conversation, to be prepared to listen closely and actively, to prepare the person you are talking to for a different, deeper sort of exchange. You need to respect the dignity of the person you’re talking with, and respect yourself enough to speak up when you disagree.

~ Anna Sale from, https://transom.org/2021/treat-an-interview-like-a-relationship/

Whether or not you’re doing conversations with guests, there’s a bunch of great advice in that article.

I’m particularly drawn to Sale’s point about how her interviews are enabled by the fact that she is creating a relationship with the guest. Everything we do either builds up, or tears down, that relationship bit by bit.

What jumps out at you?

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Ask concrete questions

This one is the podcaster’s/interviewer’s equivalent of pre-game layup or dribbling drills before a basketball game – I need to remind myself of the basics. (Anna’s advice here is also akin to your recent comments about the AWE question [And What Else, or Tell Me More About That].

Allow in laughter.

This immediately reminded me of my conversation with Holocaust Survivor Vladimir Munk - we laughed more than once during our time together, and that might seem odd, at first, talking about such a horrific topic, yet his overarching approach was one of not being defined by those terrible events, so his wit crept in naturally and generated moments of genuine lightheartedness. We shouldn’t assume that the comedian won’t be focusing on something serious, or that someone who recently lost a loved one won’t chuckle. When I interviewed Hayward Cordy (born a chronic stutterer), he even sang for a few seconds!

Don’t fill in the gaps. Wait

I have to think again about Vladimir and some pauses that occurred. This also sometimes happens when I ask about a favorite teacher, and I tend to leave in the full length of the pause. There have been other “poignant gaps” such as the one when Howard Malitz shared his heart about his dad, and when he did likewise about relationships with students.

While I do hear and see these elements in others’ work, I tend to think of my own episodes and work when you pose these types of questions, because it’s my work, not someone else’s, that I am trying to make better. Your inquiries pull us toward reflective practice, and for me that’s good.

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