Sunday, January 1, 2017

Happy New Year!!! (Family Interviews)

Another year has come and gone. There have been a lot of ups and downs, seemingly more downs. I've looked back on posts on my facebook for the last few years and the wish is always the same. For the next year to be better. It's easy to only focus on the downs of life. We sometimes forget the good, letting the bad overshadow it. There is always going to be pain and bad moments, but it's how we come out of those moments that matter. Sometimes moments change our lives forever. There have been a lot of deaths this past year. Not in the family, but in general. Celebrities, police, civilians. So sad... I'm blessed I have my family; blood and adopted. Knowing people can just slip away without any warning, I think I am going to try to dedicate some time this year to interviewing family. The thought scares me somewhat because I know there are things that people don't want to talk about and I don't want to upset them. Some times the past holds much pain. I've learned that from my mom this past year learning about some things she went through. I've always known my dad and his siblings had it rough growing up, but I'm starting to realize just how much. It's a delicate situation that needs a delicate touch and I pray I have that.

Mom and Dad gave me a digital recorder for my birthday last year. I have only used it once for an interview. Sometimes people get a little uncomfortable and don't talk as freely when there is a tape recorder running. Sometimes dad just starts talking when I don't have my recorder available.

While doing a google search for information about this subject, I came across this page that discusses How To The Tell Difficult Life Stories. I encourage you to check the page out and read all the information. Here is just a helpful snippet:
Sounds easy enough and yet going back into the pain of your past is a very difficult thing to do, especially to feelings that remain unresolved.
How to talk with someone about a difficult time in their lives:
  1. Make reasons for asking clear in your mind
  2. Why do you want to know? Are you hoping for further understanding about this person? About how this event impacted you?

  3. Make reasons for asking clear to your interviewee
  4. Tell your interviewee why you want to know about the subject. Make it clear you are not here to judge or pass a verdict.

  5. Create a calming, neutral environment
  6. Share a meal or a cup of tea first. Be conversational. It will calm them and you. Move somewhere comfortable for the talk.

  7. Read body language
  8. Assess by their posture, facial expressions, eye contact, or lack thereof, whether to push for more details or to let it be for now.

  9. Create space
  10. Ask your question, then be patient. Silence is not a bad thing. Allow the interviewee to gather their thoughts, process their emotions, and prepare their words. Even if there are 2, 3, 5 minutes of silence, wait.

  11. Keep a neutral expression
  12. You may think making a sympathetic face or cutting in with, "Oh, how dreadful," is being kind and supportive, but it is really just being distracting. It may also come off as pity, which no one wants. Not to say you need to be stone-faced, either. In listening, maintain eye contact, keep your expression gentle and attention, but otherwise non-invasive. A gentle nod once in a while is great. You just want to allow them time and space to talk.

  13. Do the interview in small chunks
  14. For difficult topics, allot manageable chunks of time. This may look different for different people. Some may prefer 30 minutes, some an hour and thirty. Check in with them verbally and also judge by their body language cues what feels like a good time to stop.

  15. End the interview mindfully
  16. After the interview, assess their mood and body language. Do they need time alone? Do you want to have tea together, take a walk perhaps? Talk about something neutral to reset the mood? You will have to use your intuition, or just come out and ask them what they want. It is a good idea to check in somehow and not just walk away once you have what you need.