May 20, 2015

ask, then ask again.

Have you ever interviewed someone really close to you? Back in college, I interviewed three people about falling in love: my dad, one of my best friends, and another friend's boyfriend. It was part of a writing assignment, and I was asked to conduct the interviews, edit their responses into three separate monologues, and then perform the monologues "in character," channeling each person.

I'd never been as excited (or as frightened) by an assignment.

I'd expected the process to feel forced and strange, maybe even a bit stiff. Instead, though, each interview felt almost sacred. I didn't expect to be surprised; hadn't I talked to them about love a million times before? Hadn't we shared our thoughts and our stories?

We had, of course, and we hadn't. Because until then, our talks weren't interviews — they were conversations. A back-and-forth. And people are different when they have the floor, so to speak. They sit differently and they move differently and they consider their thoughts in a way that's far more heightened. 

Each interview lasted five minutes, maybe seven, and I learned more in those three hundred seconds with each person than I ever could have expected.

I'm bringing this up because I can't stop listening to old StoryCorps interviews. I've mentioned the organization before, but if you aren't familiar with it, StoryCorps is a nonprofit and project that's collected thousands of interviews over the years. There are interviews between best friends, parents and children, spouses, teachers and students, and sometimes ex-strangers who connected over odd or sad or beautiful circumstances. Now there's a podcast, one that I listen to on my commute, and recently, they came out with an app to  help people conduct their own interviews with people they care about. Whether or not I do it through StoryCorps, I've decided to do just that, because there's something to be said for asking, listening, not responding, and then asking again.

In some form, I encourage you to do the same. You just never know what somebody might say — what golden, shiny marble of wisdom they may toss into your collection.


Lisa said... [Reply to comment]

That sounds really interesting. I'm always looking for new podcasts to listen to, so I'm totally adding Storycorps to the list