I have another confession: The idea of conducting an interview scares me. My “fear” stems not from a concern that anything truly bad will happen to me or the interviewee, but rather from concern that I will be unable to keep the dialogue on track or fail to earn the trust of my interviewee – or even worse, cause them to feel defensive. It was a breath of fresh air (pun intended) when I read Terry Gross’ introduction to her book All I Did Was Ask and learned that a seasoned professional deals with these very issues. Terry presents examples of each of my fears come to life: discussing the run-on interview with Georgi Arbatov, explaining the uncomfortable interview with Chiwetel Ejiofor in which it became obvious that she’d tread on a sensitive personal topic and inspired reluctance in her guest to share, and in cases of Gene Simmons and Bill O’Reilly that resulted in angry exchanges.
While I would like to live in a world where being a “professional” means the realities of human nature melt away when one goes to work, it is comforting to know that each of us is a person on the inside – equal parts vulnerability, fallibility and inspiration all at the same time. The important thing is not to lose sight of that reality — especially when you’re asking a fellow human to share their thoughts, opinions and feelings.