rapport posts

Building Rapport With Users Is Building Rapport With People December 17th, 2014

We use specific techniques to build rapport in user research, but of course those techniques work to build rapport in other situations. Here’s two great examples of rapport in relationships that map quite closely to rapport in fieldwork.

Caution: Stuffed Shirts Ahead [NYT]

Instead, miss no opportunity to chat congenially with your new colleagues — lunch, coffee, the proverbial water cooler, whatever. But remember, these conversations aren’t about you. Though you don’t want to seem evasive, avoid leaping into a happy reminiscence about foosball tournaments with your delightful former colleagues.

Think of the process as the workplace equivalent of politicians’ “listening tours” during the run-up to election season. Don’t ask, “So what’s it like to work here?” or “Do you like it here?” or anything else that requires a point-blank value judgment. Ask neutral questions like, “So how long have you worked here?” Then keep quiet.

People love to talk about themselves, and if you can signal that you’re actually interested in what they’re saying — and not merely waiting for your turn to talk — most will do it all day long. (One of the oldest interview tricks that reporters use is silence: There’s a human tendency to fill a conversational void, so let the other person do it.) In addition to signaling that you’re going to fit in, you’ll likely pick up useful clues to help you do precisely that.

It may take a little patience, but you’ll gradually be able to piece together what you need to know about how this new environment works — and who among your new colleagues has the same kind of sensibility as yours. Remember that even if the company is formal and bureaucratic, chances are that at least some of the people who work there are, in fact, agreeable human beings — the kind who like doughnuts.

5 ways to build a good relationship with anyone [The Week]

I picked up a copy of an underground indie best-seller called It’s Not All about Me: The Top Ten Techniques for Building Quick Rapport with Anyone. The author, Robin Dreeke, is in charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s elite Counterintelligence Behavioral Analysis Program. Robin combines hard science and years of work in the field to offer practical tips to build rapport and establish trust.

  1. Ask them questions.
  2. Don’t be a conversation dictator.
  3. Allow them to talk.
  4. Genuinely try to understand their thoughts and opinions.
  5. Leave your ego at the door.
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Elysa’s War Story: Keep The Swiffer On Your Right November 12th, 2012
Part 35 of 69 in the series War Stories

Senior strategist Elysa Soffer heads into the field where an adventure in building rapport awaits.

She’s Caucasian, 75 years old, retired, married with 2 grown kids, lives in Berkeley, and cleans her floors 2 – 4 times a week. This woman fits our qualifications as a participant for our research study. But you never know who you might be talking to and how best to get them to open up to you-a stranger entering their home.

Two of us spent a few hours interviewing this woman in her home for a floor cleaning study. We asked warm-up questions about her and her household. She mentioned that she was a writer and lived there with her husband. She showed us around her house, and pointed out the rooms where she spends the most time cleaning floors.

During the next part of the interview, she demonstrated her cleaning process and we asked her to test a few prototypes we brought along. She showed us everything from how she stores her tools, cleans, and puts everything away. It was as simple as that.

This was one of the last in-home interviews out of about a dozen conducted for this project. It went just as smoothly as the previous ones. We felt like we gathered insights. So, we asked our wrap-up questions and packed up. Once the video camera and recorder were off, we made small talk while heading to the door.

My research partner stopped next to the door to look at a handmade shrine-like structure sitting on a tchotchke shelf. It was made out of bones! Not fake Halloween-decoration bones, but real human-looking bones. We couldn’t resist, we had to ask.

The woman’s face lit up, and she was excited to tell us the story about her adventures visiting a tribe of cannibals in Africa. She explained that she published articles about this tribe and took many trips over the years to study their culture. She also pointed out how the shrine was made of animal, not human bones. To top it all off, she confessed that she “may” have been fed human during some of her expeditions there. Whoa!

We asked a few more questions about her adventures, but unfortunately we had to go. The vibe in the room had completely changed. She was enthusiastic and seemed more comfortable than she did for the previous few hours. Had we noticed the statue on the way in, would the interview had been different? If the camera was still on would she have reacted the same way?

Back in the car, I looked at the recruiter’s sheet again. Cannibal wasn’t listed anywhere. I wondered what secrets the previous floor cleaning participants hadn’t shared.

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Rapport building October 9th, 2012

Friend-of-a-friend Elizabeth Rubenstein took this awesome picture at our local Safeway.

I’m always amazed to see the backstage on display where those of us who are frontstage can see it (see another Safeway example here). In this example we’ve got two separate Rapport Topics Of The Day:

  • How do you like todays (sic) weather?
  • How do you think the Giants baseball team is doing?

Safeway has a long history of awkwardly conceived inauthentic rapport-building techniques, such as the one I wrote about back in 2002 where staffers would hold onto my receipt for a painfully long time while they tried to puzzle out the pronunciation of my name, before handing it back after muttering “Thank you, Mr. Portugal.”

For what it’s worth, they seem to have got better with the name thing, and I haven’t been asked any false-note questions about the weather or the Local Sports Team.

Other Safeway goodies from the past:

(Thanks to Jen Lum)

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Francoise’s War Story: Black glances cast our way August 9th, 2012
Part 23 of 69 in the series War Stories

Anthropologist Francoise Brun-Cottan, an ethnographer on the WorkPlace Project team, recounts a story about embedding deeply in an active work environment in comparatively primitive time, both in terms of the recording equipment and the field’s sophistication in describing to participants what was happening and why.

It was the winter of 1989. Members of Lucy Suchman’s group at PARC embarked on a multi-year joint Steelcase/Xerox project to look at ground control operations of two airlines at San Jose airport. Airport management and each of the airlines’ managements were “on board.” The project would study ground control operations of each airline in the existing airport facilities and then follow them over to newly built facilities in a new structure.

We were going to look at the interplay of paper (manuals, computer printouts), voice (over the air, walkie-talkies, radio, and telephone), chalkboard and whiteboards, and direct visual observation (versus camera/video feeds) of planes pulling into and out of the gates and being cleaned, fueled, and having baggage loaded and unloaded.

The plan was to use basic ethnographic methods and techniques: interviewing, shadowing (inside and on the tarmac), audio and video taping, still photography, and transcribing recordings to-we weren’t quite sure exactly what we’d come up with. But we wanted to find out what could be extracted using these methods in such a tech-heavy environment. We were betting it would be informative, insightful, and valuable to everyone concerned. We hoped.

In 1989, technology had come a long way from the cameras and recorders that had to be moved about on dollies and trailers but, as portable as they were, the wonderful Panasonic video cameras were heavy, and so were the VHS tapes and batteries. The little Sony audio tape recorders (about a the thickness of a stack of 10 iPhones) were great for interviews but micing a control room took hours. Synching the mikes with the video was a cabalistic art colorfully augmented by below-the-breath expletives.

The members of the airline ground crews had basically been informed by management that they were going to cooperate. In reality that mean they were going to “tolerate”: non-lingo literate researchers climbing over their equipment whenever they weren’t actually underfoot, being recorded for hours at a time (rather gleefully when crises were underway) and being followed around and asked question after question (further confirming the depth of the researchers’ lack of common sense and basic knowledge) whenever there was a moment of down time.

We did try and tell crew what we thought we were doing. But saying that we wanted to understand their work practices, how they would change in new environments using new technologies and how they made sense of their work and communications was not exactly revelatory. As a field, we’re much better at doing that now, partly because we’ve also got lots more examples we can show to prospective participants about results of our work.

Viewing the videos made clear what some of the crew members stated directly, which is that they were deeply suspicious of what we would report about their actions to management. Anytime they deviated from protocol, or made mistakes, or seemed to be resting rather doing some piece of work might be opportunities for management reprisals of one sort or another. Some people were openly, if politely, hostile. No one welcomed us. It was tough on participants and researchers alike. They always cooperated at some level; there was no point in antagonizing us (though some were pretty gruff).

It is known that after a time people seem to forget that cameras are rolling, even if those cameras are right in front of them and so are the researchers. Viewing the weeks of tapes gave us plenty of opportunities to see them cast black glances our way, or whisper something together and laugh at us. In their banter we also learned about their home lives and romances and trials and aspirations. Sometimes that could let us congratulate them, sometimes our knowing was resented.

I don’t remember exactly when it became clear to our team – maybe somewhere toward the end of our fieldwork – that the final report would be a 2-hour video tape, which came to be known as The Workplace Project. We said our good-byes and appreciations on the last days of fieldwork. “Thanks,” they said and (figuratively) “good riddance.”

We made sure that copies of the tapes were made available to the crews at both airlines. We learned that the report was being used by the crews to convey to mid -management complexities about the work that the crew members had not been able to convey. They repeatedly mentioned the benefit of demonstrating how manuals misrepresented events and complicated the work rather than facilitating it. Displaying the degree of expertise needed to differentiate personal task-relevant details from a sonic soup of incoming streams of information highlighted their previously unacknowledged proficiencies.

Sometimes you just have to stick with it, whatever “it” will turn out to be. And then, sometimes, you get to get thanked for revealing aspects of the work that the workers can’t make visible. A few years ago I was told that Steelcase still showed the video to visitors to their user centered division. So, that’s not too bad!

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Dan’s War Story: Focus, no matter what! June 18th, 2012
Part 6 of 69 in the series War Stories

Design researcher Dan Soltzberg has a brave and touching story about the best of intentions – and their consequences.

I was doing fieldwork for a project on at-home computer use, and a client and I were at “Richie’s”¬ù house–a double-wide in a Mid-Peninsula mobile home park. Richie’s small-to-begin-with mobile home was filled with heavy wooden furniture, boxes of paperwork, and old pieces of technology, making it feel even smaller. We were sitting at the kitchen table, and Richie was saying that he liked to lie on the couch and work on his laptop, so I asked him if we could go into the living room so he could show us.

We re-situated in the living room, and when Richie started opening up emotionally about how meaningful his work was to him, I got down on one knee next to the couch so that I would be on eye level with him, rather than standing over him. As Richie was talking I was totally focused on listening to him and guiding the conversation forward, but in the back of my mind -¬? somewhere really far in the background – I was aware of a strange cold feeling in my leg.

In addition to leading the interview, I was also manning the video camera and shooting stills, so I wasn’t able to give this strange feeling much bandwidth. When we finished our conversation and I stood up, I saw that there was a wet spot on my khaki pants. A wet spot that covered the area from the middle of my shin to above my knee. A massive wet spot.

I hadn’t figured out yet what it was, but I knew I’d kneeled in something liquid that was lurking in Richie’s carpet. One of the cardinal rules is, I don’t make research participants feel bad, and I figured if Richie saw that this had happened, he could only feel bad. So I followed him back into the kitchen, conducted the rest of the interview, paid and thanked him, and left, all the while keeping my wet-spotted leg as much out of Richie’s sight line as possible. As far as I know, he had no idea I’d been befouled.

The day’s next interview was scheduled tightly, and there was little time to take stock of things. I thought about doing a quick pant leg wash in a gas station bathroom, but made a judgement call that showing up at the second interview with a soaking wet pant leg would be worse than whatever was already starting to dry, so I decided to let it be. As I drove, my leg continued to dry, and it became apparent from the emerging smell that the mystery liquid was cat pee.

The 10-inch wet spot dried to a hard, shiny, stinky consistency as I pulled up to our next interview. The woman we were interviewing had a house that was neat as a pin, and let’s say she was not the an easygoing type of person. I sat as far across the living room as I could, but I could only imagine during the whole interview that she could smell my ripening leg. Let’s hope not. Nothing to do but keep calm, and carry on.

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ChittahChattah Quickies January 11th, 2012

Multi-platform rapport [The Art and Craft of User Research Interviewing] – A little story (on my book blog) about an amusing challenge in leading an interview just the other day.

And this is where I caught myself flicking my eye contact between the two, as a way to (I guess – it was an automatic gesture) demonstrate interest and maintain engagement. Except one person was on the phone. Yes, I was looking back and forth between the guy in the room and the phone. I was projecting all of my rapport building onto a device, using eye contact only. Needless to say this wasn’t very effective!

Microsoft Patents ‘Avoid Ghetto’ Feature For GPS Devices [CBS Seattle] – Oh, media. How you love to incite and to create a crisis where there isn’t one. Ghetto must be a hot-button word, so even though it’s not exactly accurate, let’s go for it. The fact is we are continually adding more context to our digital interactions (only yesterday, Google announced its plans to include your social network in your searchers), and these are obviously creating new challenges around privacy, but this isn’t much less inflammatory than the Siri won’t find abortion clinics non-story.

A GPS device is used to find shortcuts and avoid traffic, but Microsoft’s patent states that a route can be plotted for pedestrians to avoid an “unsafe neighborhood or being in an open area that is subject to harsh temperatures.” Created for mobile phones, the technology uses the latest crime statistics and weather data and includes them when calculating a route.

For some consumers, surveys breed feedback fatigue [AP] – Ironically, an article about quantitative data collecting that suggests we’re experiencing more of something, without any actual numbers to back up their claim. This is an area we’ve done some user research in, and while we didn’t necessarily see fatigue, we did observe a consistent presence of review mechanisms (both creating and consuming) in daily consumption.

While market-research polls have been conducted for decades, customer-satisfaction surveys have proliferated in recent years because of technology, a growing emphasis on getting data to shape decisions and measure results, and a drive to hold onto customers in a difficult economy, experts say. “People care much more about what the customers think today,” said Brian Koma, VP of research at Vovici, firm that conducts surveys and helps businesses integrate the results with views customers express online, in phone calls and elsewhere. There’s no scientific measure of the number of customer-feedback requests, but questionnaires have percolated into such professional settings as law firms and doctor’s offices and become de rigeur for even everyday purchases.

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Win Your Subjects Over with Genuine Enthusiasm August 11th, 2011

Parallels to interviewing users crop up all over the place. Just like us, portrait photographers ask their subjects trust them, as they go on a journey that might be uncomfortable at times. I don’t want to overwork the comparison, of course. You’ll see more differences than similarities in this video, but what struck me was the core notion that your own sincere enthusiasm will serve to build that trust.

(via PetaPixel)

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From SXSW – Diving Deep: Best Practices For Interviewing Users March 22nd, 2011

I spoke at SXSW recently about the interviewing process in user research. As I’ve been working on a book about this topic the timing was great for me.

While we know, from a very young age, how to ask questions, the skill of getting the right information from users is surprisingly complex and nuanced. This session will focus on getting past the obvious shallow information into the deeper, more subtle, yet crucial, insights. If you are going to the effort to meet with users in order to improve your designs, it’s essential that you know how to get the best information and not leave insights behind. Being great in “field work” involves understanding and accepting your interviewee’s world view, and being open to what they need to tell you (in addition to what you already know you want to learn). We’ll focus on the importance of rapport-building and listening and look at techniques for both. We will review different types of questions, and why you need to have a range of question types. This session will explore other contextual research methods that can be built on top of interviewing in a seamless way. We’ll also suggest practice exercises for improving your own interviewing skills and how to engage others in your organization successfully in the interviewing experience.

Slides

Audio

Presentation (45 minutes + 15 minutes Q&A):

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.


To download the audio Right-Click and Save As… (Windows) or Ctrl-Click (Mac).

Also see

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ChittahChattah Quickies November 13th, 2009
  • Storylistening for consumer insight – There are many ways of collecting stories but here are three that may be new to you:
    * Anecdote circles
    * Naive interviewers
    * Mass narrative capture
    Collecting stories is not about finding the one perfect story that describes a brand or a consumer experience. Rather it is about gathering a broad spread of qualitative data. Individually a story may be seen to be banal but their power lies in the cumulative effect of many stories.

    Interpreting stories
    * Experts
    * Machines
    * Participants

    Story interpretation is best done by a range of groups (e.g. consumers themselves, a marketing department) that may have differing perspectives on the same situation. The most appropriate techniques often avoid direct analysis initially and allow different groups to immerse themselves in the stories to produce nuanced interpretations of the consumers' world.
    (via DinaMehta.com)

  • Sony, B&N promise to rekindle rights for book owners – Boing Boing recently talked to Sony's Steve Haber, President of Digital Reading, about its flagship ebook reader, named the "Daily Edition." "Our commitment is that you bought it, you own it," Haber said. "Our hope is to see this as ubiquitous. Buy on any device, read on any device. … We're obligated to have DRM but we don't pull content back."
  • OnFiction is a magazine with the aim of developing the psychology of fiction. – Using theoretical and empirical perspectives, we endeavour to understand how fiction is created, and how readers and audience members engage in it.
  • What design researchers can learn from hostage negotiators – Interesting to look at various collaboration and communication scenarios and unpack what's going on to define some principles that can be reused. Not sure how much new about design research is brought to light here, but the framing may make it more memorable or understandable. Always glad to see the emphasis on rapport, but I don't agree with their hostage-rapport approach as a one-size-fits-all method for design research rapport building. I also think they underplay the emotional levels that good design research can uncover. Beyond frustration with products, we hear stories about cancer, divorce, infertility, hopes, dreams, and beyond. All very charged stuff.
  • If you outlaw meep, only outlaws will say meep – Tthe nonsense word started with the 1980s Muppet character Beaker. Bob Thompson, a pop culture professor at Syracuse University, said he first heard students meep about a year ago during a class screening of a television show.
    "Something happened and one of them said 'Meep,'" he said. "And then they all started doing it."

    The meeps, he said, came from all of the students in the class in rapid-fire succession. When he asked them what that meant, they said it didn't really mean anything.

    But meeping doesn't seem to be funny to Danvers High School Principal Thomas Murray, who threatened to suspend students caught meeping in school.

    In an interview with the Salem News, Murray said automated calls were made to parents, warning them of the possible punishment after administrators learned that students were conspiring online to mass-meep in one part of the school building.

    (via MeFi)

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Reading Ahead: Photo Diaries August 12th, 2009
Part 14 of 24 in the series Reading Ahead

Reading ahead logo with space above

In addition to our in-person fieldwork, we often ask research participants to do some kind of task on their own. In past projects, these assignments have included a range of activities, from workbooks and journals with specific daily prompts, to fairly open-ended photo diaries.

For Reading Ahead, we asked people to do a short photo diary, and send us five or so digital pictures (before the interview session) that would help us get a sense of how reading fits into their lives.

Diaries like this accomplish several things. They give us access to a person’s world beyond what we might be able to get in just a face-to-face meeting. We’re able to see what they do in more locations, at more different times, and in more situations.

We probably won’t be there to see someone actually reading in bed before they go to sleep at night, but they might well ask a family member to take a picture of it for their photo diary, as Tracy did for this project.

Portigal-Consulting_diary1

Diaries also help us build rapport more quickly with the people we’re meeting, by giving us a common set of stories to begin the conversation with. There’s often a bit of back and forth dialogue between us and the participants during the assignment as well, which helps us establish a relationship.

Having some shared knowledge and possibly interaction prior to the interview means that when we are face-to-face, we can jump right in with that person at a deeper level, which can free up time in the interview session for exploring more areas of the research topic.

When you look at the pictures people sent us for this project, you’ll see that they’ve responded in a variety of ways. Some focused on objects, some took pictures of other people, and some photographed themselves or had other people photograph them. It’s useful to see the different ways people interpret the topic area, and the connections they draw. It helps us understand how each person sees the world, and can point us to additional lines of inquiry.

Below are the photo diaries for Reading Ahead.

Erica

Peter

Tracy

Julie

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Great interviewing means feeling the subtext July 8th, 2009


I was inspired when I came across this bit from John le Carré’s “A Most Wanted Man”

And again Bachmann let the observation pass. A halfway-decent interrogator, he liked to preach…doesn’t smash the front door down. He rings the front doorbell, then goes in at the back entrance. But this was not the reason he held off, as he later confessed to Erna Frey. It was the other music that he was hearing: the feeling that, while she was telling him one story, he was listening to a different one, and so was she.

A number of great interview principles here (can you think of any others?)

  • Ease your way along
  • Pay attention to your feelings about what information is lurking ahead
  • Don’t force subtext to become text

This is not a process of ask-question-collect-answer-repeat. It’s filled with wonderful subtleties and nuances. Bachmann, le Carré’s interrogator, has a good handle on them as they apply to his context.

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Sample Chapter Anecdote October 19th, 2006

A few months ago I was working on a book proposal. The book (about the process of ethnographic research) isn’t happening (at least with that publisher), but I thought I would share an anecdote that I dashed off as the underpinnings of a sample chapter.

As we rang the doorbell, my colleague and I unconsciously straightened, preparing ourselves for that all-important first impression, that moment when our research participant would come to the door and size us up. We waited for a moment, looking at each other as we heard footsteps, mustering a smile as the inside door opened.
“Hello,” I offered, “Are you Brian?”

As I began to state the obvious, that we were here for the interview, he grunted, opened the screen door, and as we took hold, he turned around and walked back into the house. We glanced at each other, and stepped into the foyer. What did we know about Brian? Our recruiting screener told us he was 22, lived with his parents, and his brother, and was employed part-time. The rest would be up to us to discover.

It was 7:30 in the morning and we were taking our shoes off in a strange house. Eventually someone beckoned from the kitchen, and we came in. But already we were out of sync. The kitchen was small, with an L-shaped counter, and a small table for dining. The mother was at the end of the L, working with bowls and dishes and burners on the stove. The father was perched against the counter, while Brian, and his younger brother sat at the table. The father was a small man, while the other three were quite large. The room wasn’t intended for the six of us, so we managed to set ourselves up for our interview in the only place we could; at the far end of the counter, at the far end of the table. We wedged ourselves (one behind the other) on small chairs, pulling our knees in, our paraphernalia of notepads, documents, video cameras, tapes, batteries etc. clutched in close. It wasn’t ideal, but we hoped we could make it work.

But then the real challenge became clear – although Brian had agreed for us to meet and do this interview, he was actively disinterested. We were positioned 45 degrees behind him, in his blind spot. With his physical bulk, he managed to loom over his food in a way that eliminated even any peripheral eye contact; somehow this was something a smaller person couldn’t have done. His brother sat across from him, echoing his posture.

We had recruited Brian specifically, but of course, here we were with the entire family. We pressed ahead, explaining our study, and starting in with our planned questions. Since Brian was the person with whom we had the arrangement, we focused our attention on him. He would not respond, beyond one word answers (which sounded more like grunts), and the occasional glance up to his brother, causing them both to giggle.

My colleague and I avoided looking at each other (it may have not been physically possible, given the tight quarters) for fear of displaying our despair at the situation. Sure, we had arranged this interview, but the cues we were receiving were making it clear the arrangement wasn’t worth much. At this point, we had already woke up quite early to do this interview, so there was no point in giving up. If they changed their mind explicitly, they’d let us know, and we’d leave. Meanwhile, what else was there to do but press on? I asked questions, with very little response. I tried the brother, at which point Brian bolted out of the room for a few minutes, without a word. The brother was only slightly more amenable than Brian, mostly interested in make critical comments about his parents (to Brian’s great grunting enjoyment) as much as provide any actual information.

Indeed, the mother and father seemed not to have been warned that we would be coming; although I directed some of the questioning towards the mom, she reacted with pretty serious hostility, informing us (in the context of an answer to a question) that they did not welcome strangers into their house, and (while she was preparing food) highlighted the intimate nature of food preparation as a symbol, and that was even less open to strangers. The message was very clear.

But again, what could we do? Pressing on, until asked to leave, under the explicit agreement we had made, seemed the best approach. We asked our questions, following up on the information they had shared, listening closely, looking for clarification, offering up as much space as we could for them to talk, all in trying to build some flow and dialog. Even though the message was negative, at least the parents were willing to talk to us. And so, the young men faded out of the conversation, and the interview eventually switched over to the parents. Two hours later it turned out that we had completed an excellent interview with them; they each had great stories about our topic area, and revealed a lot of background about their family, about growing up, about their activities, and even their perspectives on what made the United States the country it had become.

Before we left the house, the mother insisted on cooking up some fried bread fresh and hot for us; admonishing us that “no one comes here and doesn’t get food” – reiterating the intimate nature of food she had mentioned at the beginning, but this time as a compliment rather than a shield.

As soon as we left the house, my colleague turned to me and said “I don’t know how you pulled that off; I thought we were done for and would have to leave.” I was very pleased with how the interview turned out, especially because it began at such a low point, but there was little magic to it. I didn’t try to solve the big problem of the complex dynamic we had walked into; I focused (especially at first) on just the next problem; the immediate challenge of what to say next. I was certainly keeping the larger goals in mind of how to cover all the areas we were interested in, but I was focusing my energy as an interviewer on the next thing. And by working at it in small pieces, bit by bit, the dynamic shifted. As interviewers, we had to compartmentalize the social experience of the event – the extreme discomfort and awkwardness of the early part of the interview, and just stick to our jobs. We didn’t handle the situation that differently than any other interview, and it served as a testament to our approach – listening, following up (and showing that we were listening by the way we followed up), building rapport and trust, bit by bit, until there was a great deal of openness and great information.

Years later, it’s obvious that there are better ways to communicate with the participants ahead of time to screen out unwilling participants. For example, the person who is going to be in the field should always speak live to the person they will be visiting before they day of the interview just to get that person-to-person communication started early, so both parties can get a sense of each other and start to feel comfortable (or agree that it’s not a good fit and move on to someone else). But, given the diversity of people, we will always end up interviewing people who are more or less comfortable with the process, and it’s our job to make them comfortable in order to get the information we are interested in. Doing so may make us uncomfortable ourselves, but with practice we must learn to set aside the social dynamics and focus on the question asking and listening that will make the interview a success.

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Scary stuff, kiddies June 13th, 2006

I’ve already blogged about last week’s BW story on ethnography, but I had to add another post once I saw the accompanying picture. Whoah.

Scary looking people in lab coats peering into a dollhouse (with a real tiny family living separately)? Could we evoke anything more horrific and antithetical to the whole point of doing ethnography?

And I still never heard back from the author of the article who invited feedback. Ah, well. Even if I don’t agree with everything BW does, it’s nice that some folks there are extremely interactive with their colleagues, readers, public, etc.

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