Reporter's Notebook

The art and science of the interview

Posts Tagged ‘stress

The Deep Breath

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This is a quickie.

I’ve noticed that some questions make some people take very deep breaths before they answer. The American Stress Institute says a deep breath is a signal that someone is trying to relieve stress about a situation. When we are frightened or simply stressed, we tend to hold our breath or take rapid, shallow breaths. Our hearts pound and muscles clench as our adrenaline kicks in.

To me, deep breaths seem to almost always be a signal of one of three things:

(1) The guest doesn’t know the subject and are afraid their lack of knowledge will cause them to embarrass themselves, or

(2) They know the subject very well and are afraid their answer might reveal something about themselves they may not want to reveal, or sometimes,

(3) They are relieved that I didn’t ask a question they thought was coming.

Then again, sometimes people just forget to breathe.

You might sometimes hear the same type of response to 1 & 2; evasive, non-specific or rambling. For number 3, the guest might suddenly perk up and their responses get brighter because they are more relaxed.

If you’re interviewing someone and you hear a deep breath, remember the trigger or the context. There is something there somewhere that may spark a reveal later.

Written by Interviewer

April 8, 2014 at 04:00

Write Stop Write Stop Write …

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Writing an article can be like running through the woods at night looking for notes tacked to trees. You kinda know where you’re going. And you kinda know what you’re looking for. But if you don’t get where you’re supposed to be in time with what you’re supposed to have when you get there, you’re monster food.

I do interviews, but not only audio interviews for podcasts. I also write freelance articles, like the one I’m finishing up right now for Hilton Head Monthly. I’m working with a volunteer medical clinic called “Volunteers in Medicine – Founder’s Clinic” in Oregon City, Oregon. Its mission is to provide free care for chronic conditions for the uninsured. And since I don’t have enough to do, I told them I’d help with their outreach. That led to me convincing an editor at the magazine to take an article I offered that connects the first VIM clinic on Hilton Head Island to the Founder’s Clinic; #86.

I spent a feverish week or so requesting interviews, sending off questions, receiving photos and transcribing answers. And two days ago, when I figured I had gotten everything from everybody that I was going to get, I closed my eyes and saw this huge pile of stuff sitting on top of a barrel of gunpowder wired to a ticking clock.

This is how writers see the world, by the way. Everything is a deadline, and mine is today. So why am I not beating the keys on the project? See the title of this post. Writing is so hard, that you have to take breaks. You have to have distractions. If I sat down and wrote the article straight through, I guarantee it would sound like something you’d read from a drop down HELP menu. In other words, it would be complete, but one dimensional; flat. It would read like all I did was transfer information from one medium to another. It would have no soul. Oh, and I’d be insane.

Writing an article requires the writer to play a role similar to the interviewer’s role, but fussier. The interviewer is lucky. They work with the interviewee’s words and only their words. An article, by contrast arranges history and mission, personalities and issues into something the editor feels OK passing along to readers. So that makes how stuff is arranged very important. Is it chronological? Yes. Is it order of importance? Yes. Is it first person narrative? Yes. Or no. I don’t know. And you don’t always know. Sometimes, it’s all of them. Or one of them. Or none of them. See the photo accompanying this post. And until the editor accepts it, all the work and the stress might be for nothing. Will it be accepted for publication or rejected? And if it’s rejected, will it be because it was too flowery, wordy, irrelevant or flat?

That’s stressful. But if this post is anything, it’s an example of how goofy writers can be. I mean, I’m doing more writing right now, what … as a way of relaxing? That’s crazy. Oh, look at the time. Break’s over.

Written by Interviewer

July 2, 2013 at 00:42