Donna Talarico writes about her experience in moving from email interviews to in-person interviews. Nothing beats face-to-face meetings as it’s the most intimate way to connect with the person whom you speak. Except for me, face-to-face puts my articles at risk for incorrect information and quotes.
You see, I’ve been profoundly deaf since birth. I rely on lip-reading instead of my hearing. While the Internet may take away the “personal” connections we make in person, it lets me be a writer. Without email, instant messenger and Web sites, getting the interview would become a struggle.
Sure, I can use the relay services (I call an operator, who in turn, calls the person I want to call. The operator types to me what the person says,) but the process is less personal than email. The operator is not me. Operators don’t use personality or inflections when telling the caller what I say (or type, in this case). If I type, “You’re kidding,” do you say it with an exclamation point? As a question? Cynically? Punctuation through relay calls don’t occur often. Even if I use a question mark, the phrase can be said several ways.
The relay also turns off people. People hang up on me or accuse me of selling something. Hey, I hate sales calls as much as anyone especially when they ask for me and won’t go away until they hear from me in spite of my husband telling them I can’t hear on the phone.
See the Whites of Their Eyes
As for in-person interviews, sure I can do that. However, most of my interviewees hail from places far away. But that’s not the only reason. Many studies show lip-readers catch only one-third of what’s said. Try reading every third word of this article and see how much you understand.
Even though I have the right to ask people to repeat what they said, most of the time I ask once and then give up. I can’t admit to people whom I have trouble understanding that I understand them. To me, it feels like an offensive remark. My husband is a pro at figuring out my reactions or facial movements when I’m conversing with someone. When he sees it happen, he’ll say in front of the person, “Did you catch that?”
“Yes.” I, of course, always reply whether or not it’s true.
Then I have well meaning friends who tell someone I meet for the first time, “Meryl reads lips. Make sure you’re looking at her when you talk.” My face turns red out of embarrassment and I feel like a child whose mother speaks up for her. I know they’re trying to help, but I can’t help wishing I could hide.
When I meet a colleague in person, I catch some of what she’s saying. I desperately want to understand everything she says, but I don’t have the courage to do something about it except for the occasional, “What?” “Excuse me?” Then I gently push her to contact me anytime through email or instant messenger.
I’ve had great interviews and bland interviews. When interviewing by email, it helps to follow up with questions and sometimes you uncover a gold mine. Thanks to technology, meeting people near and far is a exhilarating instead of a daunting experience.