The Grand Trunk Road - Recording Oral History Interviews

Using Interpersonal Skills

· Ease yourself into the situation by first building up a rapport. At the tomb of Mughal Emperor Humayun in Delhi, I came across a group of female workers whom I was keen to talk to. I crouched down beside them and nosily asked what they were doing (see image).


· Remain as informal as possible, in terms of your attitude, body language, the amount of paperwork you bring to the interview, and in the way you handle the recording equipment. This will help to relax the interviewee.


· Don’t interrupt the interviewee mid-flow. This could make him lose his train of thought as well as his spontaneity. Instead keep a notepad and pen handy to scribble down reminders. You can go back at an appropriate point during the interview or at the end for details or clarification.


· Do allow the interviewee to take his time to relate his story and don’t feel the need to jump in to fill a pause or silence. Interviewees quite often reveal more after a pause.


· Tune in to the interviewee’s responses. Many of your questions should arise spontaneously from the interviewee’s response, or if you have a different question you should at least acknowledge what the interviewee has just told you. If you don’t then the interviewee is likely to be aware that he is being ignored.


· Listen to what is said and what is meant by observing tone and body language. Sometimes what is left out is more revealing than what is left in!

Document icon Learning article provided by: Bradford Industrial Museum | 
Photo © Tim Smith

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