StoryCorps has created a national treasure house of stories and inspired thousands to ask the big questions that too often get overlooked in the hubbub of everyday life.
“Who inspired you?”
“What is your most important memory?”
“Why did you decide to pursue your profession?”
In 2008, StoryCorps established the day after Thanksgiving as the National Day of Listening as a way of giving people an alternative to “Black Friday,” traditionally the biggest shopping day of the Christmas season.
Technology has made it very simple to record good-quality conversations between ourselves and our families, or our friends and our elders and those whose lives inspire us, or those whose wisdom guides us. These days, we don’t need expensive, fancy equipment – just our smart phones and a little bit of time. I think that most everything you need to remember for a great interview can be summed up in this haiku:
Choose a quiet room.
Ask open-ended questions.
Listen with your heart.
There are a few more things that might be helpful, too: Sit close, so that the sound of your voices is recorded clearly and strongly into your recording device. Communicate interest with your eyes. Resist the urge to say “uh huh,” or to jump in when there’s a moment of silence in the conversation. Sometimes the most important things people say come after a pause.
Listen in headphones, so that you can identify the distracting sounds around you and seek to turn them off. (No TVs, no radios, no squeaky chairs, maybe even unplug the fridge if you have to.) Ask those open-ended questions, but don’t be afraid to ask for more detail or clarification if you need to. Simple prompts like “tell me more about …” or “help me understand about …” or “let’s go back to …” or “how did you feel when …” can really help evoke greater detail and a greater sense of connection in your conversation.
Learn more about the National Day of Listening at diy.storycorps.org.