Last month I spent over 50 hours in people’s homes talking to them about their lives. I ventured behind their front doors armed with some questions, a load of creative activities and a curious and open mind. They showed me their most personal spaces, introduced me to their family and friends and shared their life stories with me.
Most people think their story isn’t unique, but what I’ve learnt is that everyone has a tale to tell. Often it’s the quietest people who are the greatest storytellers, once they start talking they don’t stop. People find the interviews liberating – it can be a time of reflection.
It’s a delicate relationship between the interviewee and the interviewer. I’m in a position of trust, a fluctuating and fluid conversation which takes twists and turns and sometimes reveals golden nuggets in unexpected places. It’s my responsibility to craft and connect the conversations in a considerate and responsible way. It never ceases to amaze me how it’s possible to forge an intimate connection between two people in such a short space of time.
For me, being invited into people’s lives is a huge privilege. I’ve heard about loves, losses and life’s lightest moments – the experiences which shape their opinions, perceptions and actions. I’ve had people tell me things they’ve never told a soul before, and possibly never will do again. I’ve listened when they talked about life-changing events, and laughed with them when they share their most amusing experiences.
Speaking to people often reminds me how lucky I am – it’s hard not to make comparisons between your life and theirs. It’s both human and humbling. It takes me out of what I know and catapults me into something new.
To make things better and make better things it’s crucial to understand how people think and behave. And going through the keyhole is key to experiencing their world.