The duality of interviewing: to better see, be seen
I’ve been looking more and more about the art of interviewing - because of shrtcttng but also because it’s a subject that draws me in.
What do you think when you think about interviewing?
Probably something on the lines of listening and being heard, picking up cues, knowing when to swerve and when to let the conversation flow, properly phrasing questions and asking them in the right moment, actively absorbing the words, and thinking about the next move while paying close attention to the present.
I’ve been asking questions for a long time now, out of interest or need.
It’s been my job, my hobby, and a valuable tool when meeting so many interesting people and places.
It’s key for bridging gaps in communications, and better understanding the world.
Interviewing has many different methods and shapes.
You can interview for a documentary, for a talk show, for a job, for a research project.
You can interview your Uber driver, or a cashier, or even your date.
An interrogation is an interview, too.
How you approach the interview will depend massively on what you’re doing it for.
What are you trying to achieve by asking those questions?
To be blunt and obvious: answers.
You interview to get more information about a certain subject.
But it can go beyond that.
The way I see, the best interviewer always passes the feeling of I see you.
The world itself, in its roots, implies it: to see each other.
The most intriguing part here revolving around the duality of it.
Traditionally, the interviewer is the one who mostly asks questions, listens and directs the conversation, while the subject replies, digresses and adds flavour to it.
If you look for tips on having better conversations, networking or interviewing, you’ll tirelessly be told to listen more than speak.
Of course, if you’re only trying to learn from someone, listen to what they have to say.
But if you look at it this way, it all feels awfully unidirectional. And shallow.
It doesn’t need to be.
And in reality, it isn’t.
Part of getting people to open up to you is for them to believe in you, and in your intentions.
In your genuine interest in what they have to say.
Sure, there are people who will talk about endlessly when prompted with a hi.
But why would they tell you something they haven't told before? Something they hadn't thought of before?
To get to the deep, interesting stories, there’s usually a level of trust that comes with it.
It means that you, as an interviewer, need to be seen by your subject too.
Otherwise, they will shut down. Or remain on the surface.
Sometimes that’s fine.
You don’t need to dig deep into passions, traumas, kinks, frustrations or ambitions with everyone you meet.
It takes a lot of energy to do that, believe me.
But in those moments you see a glimpse and you want in, show yourself.
Let them into your world, and show that you truly care about theirs.
Maybe the two collide.
The way I see it, interviewing is about curiosity and respect.
Be present, be open, listen, and ask questions that require thought.
It helps if you have prior knowledge as you can ask pointed questions.
But sometimes not knowing opens up a realm of possibilities too.
At least for those who are brave enough to travel into the unknown.
What really matters is to show you have genuine interest.
To create the space and the feeling of openness and intimacy.
You have my undivided attention.
I’m here, I’m listening, I’m interested.
Tell me more. Tell me about that.
How does it make you feel?
I see you.
The word interview can sound daunting, resolved, formal, unilateral. But it shouldn’t really be.
After all, is there anything more pure than the idea of really seeing each other?