Tag Archives: Interpersonal relationship

protagonist parting words


My dear friend Laura asked me this month to reflect upon romantic love by doing a bit of reading. She also asked that I dive into my interpersonal relationships by instigating recorded conversations through formal interviews.

Her simple requests gave me a fantastic opportunity to observe how I engage with the excellent people in my life. The interview process opened up new methods of interaction and communication and led to mixed results, some new positive pathways and some unexpected roadblocks. Being on either side of a microphone immediately changes the way we converse with one another.  Some of us immediately fall into playing roles and I quickly realized that not everyone is comfortable being in those roles.

Not everyone that I intended to have an interview with even agreed to be recorded.  For whatever reason, whether it was the microphone that made them uncomfortable, they didn’t have the time, or they didn’t want to be recorded, some people I really wanted to interview chose to decline. This may have taught me the most important lesson of the month: Sometimes NOT accomplishing what I set out or want to do may actually be the best way to learn what it is I need to learn.

Conducting an interview can very much mirror how we conduct relationships. In successful interviews there is an awareness of one another.  There seems to be an easy flow, a give and take, a push and pull.  The interviewer instigates, questions, guides the direction, but also is ready to receive, follow a new line of thinking and most importantly – listen openly and attentively. The interviewer must not expect or assume specific answers or outcomes.  The interviewer needs to learn acceptance of what the interviewee is willing to share or not share. Whether it is deemed successful or not, there is much to be learned in any interview, by observing yourself preparing for and conducting it while also listening and asking of others what they might need and want to get out of the process.

Because this blog is not the place to share specific revelations that I learned about the important people in my life, I will leave you with only a fraction of what I personally experienced and learned in these past four weeks.  Below, I will share the discoveries that I feel to be the most worthwhile and useful to me while developing my interviewing skills.

  1. Let go of assumptions of how others think and feel about being interviewed
  2. Let go of specific expectations of what could come from an interview process
  3. Accept and be thankful for what is created or shared from the interview exchange

Hmmm…. What would happen if I applied these lessons to my interpersonal relationships as well?


Just finding this blog today? Read more about the Living Chapters project here.

seeking our story

I have been seeking stories for a while now both in my personal and professional life. It seems to be the one thing that I never tire of, listening to people share an opinion, a feeling, a perspective and observing the way in which they share them.

Even though I have been doing interviews for a long time and have had some success at collecting some incredible stories, I have never been taught officially how to do formal interviews. I just started doing them. I relied on doing my best to build a connection or relationship with the person that I was talking with to help the subject feel comfortable and open to sharing their thoughts. Out of the hundreds of interviews I’ve collected though, I really have done very few recorded interviews with those that I already share a connection with.

I began this new month last weekend spending time with two people who I hold strong connections to, Emily Wheat (October’s Chapter writer) and Cosmic Jim Naeseth (The Living Chapters Referee). As I did not have proper recording equipment with me, I simply tested the waters in my conversations with both of them to see how the interview process would go with people I knew well and cared about.


I didn’t technically interview Emily, although I spent hours hiking in the woods interrogating her and contemplating on why stories themselves are so important and why we are drawn to passing them on. By asking Emily these questions, I came closer to understanding what I, personally, want to get out of the process of collecting and interviewing. What do I want to learn? By the end of our visit, I came up with a list of questions in which I intend to explore with all who I interview this month.

Focusing on interpersonal relationships, I have decided that it makes sense to just dig in and ask directly about them. I would like to focus on interviewing individuals who have changed my path (either subtly or directly) through their engagement in my life.

What can I learn from my relationship with these important people?

What have they taught me? Or how have they impacted me?

What have I taught them? Or how have I impacted them?

Who has changed the path or direction in their lives? How?

How have relationships played a role in their lives?

These are questions that I would like to seek answers to through my interview process. I am interested in learning about the relationships that change the path of our lives. Who are the people who have helped you become who you are or land you where you are or helped you shape your values?


After leaving Emily in the mountains of North Carolina, I stopped in Hampton, Virginia to visit Cosmic Jim. He was there visiting his family’s first home where he grew up. It has been about a year now since his father passed away leaving him the only one alive in his immediate family. This visit may have been the last trip to this place where Jim’s story began. It seemed appropriate in this moment of closure to witness and capture the beginning of his next chapter. A good place and time to inquire about his feelings about his path and relationships. And a good place to question myself about why I decided to drive here to Hampton, VA to share the experience with him.

I tested out the questions with Jim, after we visited his old street and the sea-side spot that he and his parents use to vacation at. I realized that these questions about relationships are not easy questions to ask nor are they easy questions to answer (whether you know your interview subject or not).  It was more complicated than I had originally thought.

Years ago, I actually taught interviewing and story collecting to middle school youth in the neighborhood I lived in. In Remington Youth Community radio class, students interviewed their fellow neighbors and business owners in the community collecting the story of a neighborhood from the youth’s perspective. In order to get them use to the process of recording and interviewing, the first assignment I gave them was to interview themselves.

How could my students ask questions of others when they had not gone through the process of sharing their own answers with themselves? I’m now realizing that I may have something to learn by revisiting this assignment and interviewing myself first.

Before expecting the people I care about to answer questions about our life stories or our personal relationships, I would have to be willing to answer these questions myself.



Just finding this blog today? Read more about the Living Chapters project here.

chapter six


Stories from Your Life (and meditations on romantic love…)

Dearest Beth,

I have been wondering for months what the hell I’ve gotten myself into and how to engage with something so intimate and something so not my business as your interpersonal relationships.  But talking to you has helped me come to grips with this dilemma.  Our conversations over the last month have been extraordinary.  Because of these conversations, you have been floating around my daily life even more than usual.  I hear something, or see something, or think of something and you immediately come to mind.  But even though you wash over me as a presence, there are times when I wish that I had recorded our talks so that I could pull you to my side in a more physical way.

This month, for the chapter on interpersonal relationships, I’d like to see you blend your friendships with your love for collecting stories. I would like you to interview four people (feel free to interview more if you like the idea) who you love, care about, or are intrigued by.  You may choose old friends or people you want to get to know better.  It would be wonderful to interview and record people who you’ve talked to for ages just to see what it’s like when you move from spontaneous conversation to a slightly more purposeful format.  And I think one of these interviews should be with your Mom.

There needn’t be specific rules as to how you go about your interviews.  You could decide to be dead serious, dead silly, to talk about deeply personal things or to talk about your favorite foods or films.  You could talk about the past, present or future. You could ask someone to read your favorite story to you or to sing a song.  Whatever is important to you at the time is good.  I do think you should decide on some key questions before you begin your interview.  It would be nice to begin by asking that person something you’ve always wanted to ask them or something that you’d like to be able to replay in the future.  If the conversation meanders and you get completely side tracked, that’s fine. There is no need to share these stories or interviews with anyone if you don’t want to.

I would aim for one interview a week.

Now you have much more experience than I do related to collecting stories and thinking about story telling.  But I’ve come across a few beautiful stories or meditations on storytelling over the past few weeks and I’d like you to listen to them.  (Can you feel the teacher in me coming out here?) Hopefully you will just enjoy these.  And we can include these pieces in our future conversations.  Maybe, maybe, maybe you could think about the idea of a “single story” and your family.

What Are The Dangers of a Single Story? By Chimamanda Adichie on the Framing the Story episode of the Ted Radio Hour


 Hitchhiking as A Family from Dick Gordon’s The Story program


Terry Gross interview with Maurice Sendak from September 2011.  This link takes you to the last 5 minutes of the interview, illustrated by Christoph Neimann.  There is a link to the entire interview on the page.


I am going to use this challenge to record some stories from my parents.  I have thought about doing this for years and will now get off my butt and do it. At the very least I can immortalize the story of my Mom getting her mouth washed out with soap by her father.

In terms of romantic love, I would like us both to read Elemental Passions by the philosopher Luce Irigaray.  I will be sending you a copy of this book soon!  Now this book will in no way give you any kind of useful advice about creating, maintaining, or leaving romantic relationships.  As a matter of fact, you may find this book way too oblique and even annoying.  But I’ve found sections of this book strangely beautiful and I thought we could talk about love and try to untangle what Irigaray is saying together.  It’ll be a slightly different interaction between us, but it would certainly make a car ride to western Maryland edifying as well as fun.




Just finding this blog today? Read more about the Living Chapters project here.