Are you a good listener? Most of us think we are, but are we really?
Have you ever found yourself listening to someone’s story that is so long and/or boring that your mind wanders? Or has their story triggered a story of your own that your mind starts retelling, overriding what the other person is saying?
Listen was the theme of the 2007 Conference of the Association of Personal Historians. It’s critical that interviewers concentrate on what they’re being told since that, after all, is the entire point of the interview process.
Conference host Jane Baxter opened the gathering in Nashville by reminding us that our own expectations are often a barrier to a successful interview. “Drop your expectations,” Jane said. “You may miss something if you’re not paying attention.”
Bridget Kling, a prize-winning producer for Nashville Public Television, added: “Take your time to listen to what they tell you and what they’re not telling you.”
A few days before the conference, Jane took to a Nashville studio where she recorded a song she wrote, “Listen.” You can find the song on her Roots and Branches Productions web site. Pay particular attention to the lyrics and I’m sure Jane would appreciate any e-mail comments you might have.
Videographer Peter Savigny of White Plains, N.Y., made a last-minute decision to join APH and attend the conference. He was particularly impressed by James Walsh’s presentation. After leaving Nashville, Peter shared with fellow APHers his new credo, which neatly sums up what we personal historians do:
Photos and memories are silent.
Silence gives no information.
Everyone can contribute remembrances and details.
Our job is to align those details & images and bring a voice to them.
For now and forever.
In Nashville, Peter showed a video he made of his 4-year-old son. The charming production serves as a time capsule of a youngster’s view of the world. Check out the “Tell Me a Story” link on his Heirloom Biography web site.