Fine tuned indeed

It seems almost paranormal, but I think it’s just more of nature’s evolutionary fine-tuning. Being such social mammals, it would make sense for us to have an uncanny sensitivity for detecting, another person’s sentiments toward us, even when they’re not advertising them.

~ David Cain from, https://www.raptitude.com/2020/05/how-to-get-rich-in-the-kindness-economy/

In recent years I’ve elevated my perception of the subtleties of interpersonal communication—everything beyond the spoken word—from one of those, “I don’t know how I do that,” skills to be something I explicitly practice and notice in others. This is one of the things which makes great actors and actresses: Their ability to produce all the subtleties makes them feel very real to the majority of people who do not detect subtleties consciously. (They of course feel very real to me too. I’m saying I now better understand why and what cues are causing me to feel that way.) This is a super-power. Once you are reasonably competent at detecting what is affecting you, you can then use that information intentionally.

There’s been an enormous amount of discussion recently about facial expression, masks, posture, and intention. In effect, a huge number of people are getting a crash master-course in using and detecting all this subtlety.

I think that bodes well for all of us.

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Equipment matters

I have a confession to make: even though I love sound, I don’t really like sound equipment. […] Unfortunately, my bad attitude clashes with an important truth about audio storytelling: your equipment matters.

~ Andrew Wardlaw from, https://transom.org/2020/recording-kit-tune-up/

Today, more of a bookmarking post than deep thinking. If you do anything with recording interviews—or even if you just own ONE cable to charge your phone—this article is chock-full of neat ideas.

…of course, if you’re into recording, I recommend handing your cash/cards over to someone you trust before reading it. I confess I was off on a few sites hovering over the buy button on a few new toys. ;)

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I really don’t mind the noise

I’ve always had poor hearing.

(Yes, it’s been looked into. No, there’s no specific reason. Pro-tip: Some humans have sub-average hearing.)

So so so many things I could unpack about my personality, and who I am, which I now think are related to my hearing. For example, I’ve always been loud and gee, I wonder if being louder was related to my hearing. :) Put cotton in your ears and see how loud you start talking… Anywho.

Exactly three years ago I went and got hearing aids. Now most people who need them, hem and haw and fight their wives—oops, did I just call out the men? I flipped to the “team hearing aids” in one conversation.

I was at someone’s house, in the evening after a wonderful meal. Bunch of us hanging out and we’re having an incredible conversation. I was about 8 podcast episodes into my [what would become the] Movers Mindset project. One of the people in the conversation was someone I really wanted to interview; not that night, but soon.

And I was seriously pissed that I couldn’t hear half of what was being said.

Next day I made an appointment for the following week. I bought a pair (they aren’t cheap) at my first appointment. I call them my cyborg implants; I am Craig of Borg. Everyone who knows me well, was like, “hey what happened to Craig he suddenly got drastically quieter?”

What does any of this have to do with my title?

OH. MY. GAWD. BECKY the world is loud! The birds and the planes—did you know jets make noise when they fly over?—and the highway a mile over and the road when you drive and people… holy cow are some people REALLY LOUD! And podcast interviews… when I’m interviewing people, with headphones on, or talking in person, or strolling down the street where I can’t see their lips (aside: I read lips very well)… ambrosia through my ears. But the world is LOUD.

…and I love every second of it.

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Care and feeding

I recently read Ray Bradbury’s, How To Keep And Feed A Muse. It’s a great essay by the way, and I suggest reading the entire collection in his book, Zen in The Art of Writing.

When I give my thoughts on interviewing, depending on who’s asked me and why, I sometimes veer off into describing where the questions come from; right smack in the middle of the interview, where do all the questions come from? Sometimes I do actively try to think them up on the spot; I’ll run through the topics we’ve covered, the ideas I had before we started, and then I’ll grab a thread of thinking and tug. But that rarely works and it’s always obvious to the guest, to me, and in the recording. Most of the time however, the questions just come to me. Like, *flash* …they come streaming at me far faster than I could say them. So what’s up with that?!

Maybe it’s my muse?

Have you heard of tulpas? A “tulpa” was originally, “a concept in mysticism and the paranormal of a being … created through spiritual or mental powers.” (Wikipedia) No, not that tulpa.

More recently, the term is being used to refer to… Well, you’re not going to believe me, so I’ll just pull-quote it:

A tulpa is an entity created in the mind, acting independently of, and parallel to your own consciousness. They are able to think, and have their own free will, emotions, and memories. In short, a tulpa is like a sentient person living in your head, separate from you. It’s currently unproven whether or not tulpas are truly sentient, but in this community, we treat them as such. It takes time for a tulpa to develop a convincing and complex personality; as they grow older, your attention and their life experiences will shape them into a person with their own hopes, dreams and beliefs.

~ What Is A Tulpa from, https://www.tulpa.info/what-is-a-tulpa/

No, it’s not a joke. There are no drugs involved. They are literally talking about creating an entire, additional, thinking, conscious mind… which just happens to be running in the same physical organ as your mind. Sounds completly ape-shit-bonkers… until you start reading more about it and put some thought into how your mind developed. You [you reading. you as your current mind] certainly weren’t born in your brain. You-as-your-current-mind developed over years. How’d that happen?

What if you could do it again, on purpose, using your current brain?

Today I find myself wondering if I’ve created a nascent Tulpa. It doesn’t seem to mind being stuck in my brain; it has no control, but every once in a while it realizes there’s a cool, novel, human mind across the table, and here are these ice-cream-cone like things with the wires and… “oh OH! I have a question!!!”

…and then Craig’s all like, “now where did that question come from?”

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What is the air speed velocity…

So, I’ve been wondering—to those of you who do interviews—does anyone else find they tend to ask overly complicated questions, or do you somehow manage to make them concise?

All through my podcasting and interviewing journey it’s been illuminating to listen to my finished work after a significant amount of time has elapsed. Often I end up with many weeks or even months between when we record something and when it comes out. There’s nothing quite as motivating—at least for me—as hearing my own work… and cringing and wincing and being horrified… anyway. Along the way I’ve been sniping my most egregious problems as best I can.

…and the current issue I’m trying to work through is my use of questions structure as “A, or B?” You see I did it at the top…

So I’ve been wondering—to those of you who do interviews—does anyone else find they tend to ask overly complicated questions, or do you somehow manage to make them concise?

I do this all the time.

So no more of…

I’ve been wondering, what do you think air speed velocity of an unladen swallow, or do you think that in order to ask that we need to know if it’s the African or European variety?

No no no Craig stop asking complicated questions…

What is the air speed velocity of an unladen swallow? …and then shut. up.

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Practice practice practice

Depending on your own personal history, there isn’t necessarily a lot at stake in how you conduct yourself at a cash register. What I’m trying to get at with my idiosyncratic cashier-focused story is this: there’s a vast difference between the habit of getting by, and the habit of getting better, and you may, without realizing it, be free to choose between them.

~ David Cain from, https://www.raptitude.com/2020/02/getting-by-and-getting-better/

I’ve not gone down the exact same rabbit hole as Cain. However, being intentional with my work on the podcast interviews is amazing—it’s the same iterative path of discovery as he’s describing.

I’ve done well over 100 interviews—indoors, outdoors, quiet spaces, noisy spaces, while healthy, while sick-ish, with shy people, with insanely energetic people, during the day, at night, across sunsets with natural light, English-speakers and English-as-second-language speakers, old-ish, young-ish, men, women, couples, teams, while working alone and with an assistant, sleep-deprived and well-rested, with the occasional tech problem, in comfy chairs with tea, in an unpadded folding chair for 12 interviews in a row, well-fed and ravenous, . . .

None of that matters.

The conversations are always amazing. Time after time, once we get into the flow state, it turns out that people are interesting— most of the time surprisingly interesting. The more I work at this, the more I’m coming to believe that the art of communication, and in particular conversation, is the single most important skill for a human to possess.

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Being a listener

It feels different to be a true listener. You fall into a different brain state—calmer, because you have no stray thoughts blooming in your head—but intensely alert to what the other person is saying. You lose track of time because you are actively following the point the other person has brought up, trying to comprehend what she means and if it relates to other points she’s brought up. Your brain may jump to conclusions, but you’re continually recognizing when that happens, letting it go, and getting a better grip on what the speaker really intends to communicate.

~ Indi Young from, https://alistapart.com/article/a-new-way-to-listen/

This agrees with my experience conducting interviews for the podcast. I’ve now spent several hundred hours intentionally practicing listening. I’ve learned a lot of different things in the process of interviewing and creating a podcast, but what I’ve learned about listening has proven by far the most valuable. Learning how to listen changes every interaction with another person.

Occasionally I wonder if I can sort out some small set of actionable advice from my experience thus far. I haven’t been able to yet, and I think it’s because the act of being able to objectively review your interactions is necessary. It’s one thing to have a conversation, but when it’s recorded and you can return later to review what you said, and what you thought you heard, that’s mind-altering.

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Prompts and it’s not a test

When you’re in a job interview, a podcast interview, a sales call, a meeting… if we take the approach that this is a test and there’s a right answer, we’re not actually engaging and moving things forward.

~ Seth Godin, from https://seths.blog/2018/08/ignore-the-questions/

In an interview, if a guest slips into this-is-a-test mode, things get awkward. If I ask, “what’s something people get wrong about you,” the guest will think I’m looking for dirt, and that I want something they’d not want to share. Or worse, they wonder if I already know something, and suspect I want to drag that skeleton from their closet.

But the sort of interviews I’m interested in creating are ones where those involved are working together to create something interesting and respectful of the subject. So it’s important to create the environment where the guest naturally treats questions as prompts. It turns out that this is easy to do.

If I honestly want the good sort of interview, then my actions follow automatically. I share things about myself and doing so invites the other person to share. I take things seriously which conveys that I value the interaction and what I’m hearing. I express my interest directly by asking interesting questions; questions which show the other person I’m generally curious. Overall, I demonstrate that I’m listening because I’m interested rather than because I want to do something with what I’m about to hear.

I’m listening to comprehend; not listening to respond nor refute.

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