To be understood as to understand

Hello from the great state of Alaska! After 3 flights, 1 Cinnabon, and 2 hours of sleep later I stepped off the plane, onto the tarmac and faced the cold, Alaskan rain.

Today we woke up refreshed and were ready to tackle the 3 interviews ahead of us. I was lucky enough to give the first interview of the project. I spoke to Michelle DeWitt who is active in the Bethel community after running the Tundra Women’s Coalition. We were able to speak about some of the problems the region, like restrictions on salmon fishing, domestic violence, and institutional racism, as well as the possibility for solutions to these community stressors. While this was not the first interview I’ve ever given (Shoutout to the Creightonian for giving me some experience!) it was for sure my most intense. While interviewing I was reminded of some universal life lessons that can be learned from interviewing another person. Here are some of them:

Practicing my interview with my colleague, Tony.
Practicing my interview with my colleague, Tony.
  1. Listen- So often in our everyday, rushed conversation, speaking has the illusion of being transactional. While two people are often listening to bits of what the other person is saying, usually one is already thinking about what to say before the other is done speaking. In an interview, your next question hinges on the answer the person is giving. It becomes essential for you to quiet yourself and focus totally on the other person and what they are saying, they might bring up an aspect of the story you have not even considred. Sure I am tired and I am missing my friends (HI!), but it is so important to be present to the interview and the other person.
  2. Be vulnerable- Do you know how hard it is to hold eye contact with one person for an entire hour? Well for me, very. Eye contact is one of the most intimate things you can do with a person because it establishes a bond of emotional connectivity. In an interview, eye contact is important because you need to be connected to the person you are talking to and the subject you are talking about. However awkward it is, both parties must become vulnerable so that the person being interviewed feels comfortable and respected enough to delve into something serious.
  3. Be patient- Sometimes the world does not care that you are giving an interview. Dogs bark. Floors creak. Trucks beep. Refrigerators hum. It is up to you to take a deep breath and wait for the noise to stop or think of a way to get rid of the noise. It’s so easy to get frustrated  but instead you must solider  through for the greater goal of the story.

After finishing my hour-long interview I thought of the Peace Prayer of St. Francis in which we are reminded:

I may not so much seek

to be consoled as to console;

to be understood as to understand;

to be loved as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive

In interviewing you are placing yourself in a place of humility as you acknowledge that you want to learn from this other person. I hope that I maintain this sense of humility during my time in Bethel and that I am able to be receptive to the messages this community has for me.

3 thoughts on “To be understood as to understand

  1. Claudia, what an insightful blog. You are learning by experiencing, and then by reflecting upon the ah-hahs. Clearly you have also learned by listening to your awesome Mom, and have a disciple’s heart. Good going, girl. Enjoy your Alaska pilgrimage. Debora

  2. Finally getting around to reading your blog. You go girl. I’m so happy that you’re having this experience! Excited to read more. Love you always!

  3. Wowee So glad ML sent us this link! You are such a remarkable person! Can’t wait to read more of your adventure! LOVE THIS BLOG! XXOO M

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