Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Conversations that Matter

Didja ever have a conversation with someone and he/she asked you a question that stopped you short in your tracks?

I just did.

Yesterday, I talked with someone about some medical research. He asked me a question that I answered honestly without even thinking about it.

Then he followed up with a bunch of questions connected to the first question. By this time, I realized what I had said and tempered all my answers. But, he was the first person to ask me that question, and I guess I'm glad he did.

It all reminded me of how I question people during interviews and conversations for television. We ask the questions to which we need answers to match the subject of the story. Then we usually leave the conversation at that and move onto the next story.  But, sometimes I ask questions after the conversation that don't relate to the story directly... that is when I get the best answers.

During an interview of a mother of a Down's Syndrome son many years ago, I asked all the mandatory questions about his current situation and got all the expected answers for the story I was writing.  Then, when the "formal" part of the conversation had ended and my photojournalist was about to move the camera to shoot b-roll, the mother began talking about her fears for the future. She began to cry and tell me how worried she was about her son and what would happen to him when she died.  You can't stop someone when they are in an emotional conversation, you can just listen and not look away.

I was shouting to myself inside "I hope Dale is getting this!!!!".  He was. Still rolling and captured it all in a sensitive way. Kudos to all those PJ's who really know how to shoot, who LISTEN to the subject on the other side of the lens, and how to follow a situation without disrupting the atmosphere.

The unexpected is usually the most revealing and the most cleansing.

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