Soul Metaphors: Contents

Chapter 19

Chapter 21


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Chapter 20: Seven Tips for Conducting Effective Lifestyle Interviews

          Up until now, it has been possible to proceed in this book merely by practicing on your own. At this point, Soul Metaphors becomes its own exercise in social interest and cooperation. The time has come for you to recruit friends, family and acquaintances and to interpret one another’s early memories.

A group setting is particularly effective for conducting interviews; you can gather ideas from one another’s observations and learn from one another’s techniques.

            By using the interview questions provided in Chapter 18, and by practicing the skills you have developed in the memory interpretation exercises presented in the first half of this book, you should now be well equipped to conduct a live interview. One strategy you might find particularly effective is to gather a group of friends and take turns asking questions of one volunteer in a group setting. In this way, you can help one another and also generate ideas from each other’s observations. You can meet periodically and take turns interviewing different members of the group. It is also a good idea to tape-record each session and give the recording to the interviewee. Typically, people enjoy revisiting their interviews, and there is so much information in an interview that there is always more to be gleaned by going back to it.
            By now, you have learned that early memories are not trivial. You have considered the meanings of your own earliest memory and perhaps these secret meanings have provoked strong feelings – even urges to change – within you. It is therefore important that lifestyle interviews take place in an atmosphere of mutual trust and respect. I suggest using the following seven guidelines when you interview people:

            1) Honor people’s privacy. Some of the people you interview may be perfectly comfortable if you talk about their memories and the subject matter of their interviews with other people; others will not. Ask the person you are interviewing for his preferences, and respect his wishes. In any case, always use discretion when discussing people’s earliest memories. If you wish to talk about a memory, it is often a good idea not to mention the person it belongs to.

            2) It’s not required to answer every question. If a person does not feel comfortable with a question, he or she should simply take a pass. There should always be plenty of other information available to draw out the lifestyle.

            3) Build an atmosphere of comfort. Start by asking less personal questions first. Beginning with the questions about childhood health or where a person grew up is a good way to warm up to deeper topics.

            4) Don’t lead the witness. Ask open-ended questions such as, “How did that make you feel?,” as opposed to closed questions such as, “Did that make you feel sad?” Open-ended questions elicit more information and do not prejudice the answer.

            5) Be cautious about negative observations. If you notice an aspect to a lifestyle that is not healthy, consider your relationship with the person you are interviewing and consider whether she would appreciate and benefit from your observation. It is not necessary to point out everything that you notice, and most people will naturally reflect upon the more negative aspects of their lifestyles anyway.

            6) Always encourage. If you notice aspects of the lifestyle that suggest maturation or positive personal qualities, point these out. If you decide to share a negative observation, be sure to point out the good factors in the lifestyle, as well, at the same time. When sharing negative observations, it is a good approach to say something positive, then introduce the negative, then finish with a positive statement. Also, the negative should always be presented as a hypothesis. For example, “It’s obvious that you cared about your little sister a lot, but at the same time it seems like you felt some jealousy toward her. It seems like there was a tension for you between the jealousy and the very strong positive feelings.”

            7) Remember your interpretation is a hypothesis. Never present an interpretation by simply announcing to a person his lifestyle. The interpretation portion of the interview is a dialogue. Use language such as “Your memories seem to be saying,” or “There may be a tendency here.” Give the person chances to notice patterns for himself and to agree or disagree with you.

            By following these seven rules, you should be able to interpret people’s memories in an atmosphere that is fun, respectful and rewarding.


(Copyright Ellen Alderton, www.WeLoveAdler.net)