'Talk to Me' Summary
Updated: Oct 6
This book provided a number of openings to start more meaningful conversations including: 1. What do you make of... 2. How did you think it was going to work out... 3. Would you rather ...
Want to dig deeper than the core principles? Check out my notes in Roam Research and see how the principles from this book connect with other books I've read.
I have summarized 'Talk to Me', distilling the book into 20 core principles:
Great interview reveal: (1) Humanity (2) Grief (3) Victory (4) Struggle (5) Joy
Play to people's sympathies to get an interview. For example: (1) "Don't you remember what it was like getting started in your career?" I could really use your help" (2) "I have a father that I love. I know that if something like this happened to them, I would want the world to know how wonderful they were".
Play to people's ego: Tell them why interviewing them provides a unique perspective in understanding the big picture.
Play to shame when the person does not respond to logic, self-interest, altruism and pleas to help you. Tell them that not talking to you is a breach of public trust or responsibility.
Every conservative has a liberal exception (and vice versa).
Preparation will do 2 things: (1) Put the person at ease because they know they are in safe hands (2) Make them more like to tell the truth.
The structure of an interview should be similar to that of a story arc: (1) Interesting beginning (2) Rising and falling (3) Crisis point (4) Resolution/conclusion
When you improvise 'go with the rip current for a while, but never lose sight of the shore'. Write your questions down but don't be too rigid. Be ready to answer a follow-up question based on the response.
The best questions are open-ended ones but don't ask an open-ended question that is too open-ended, resulting in meaningless answers. Asking someone "What was it like to live in the Arctic" will provide a vague answer of "cold". To get a better answer, ask: "How did you get food?" "How did people go on dates?"
'Why' and 'How' questions will provide better answers than questions that start: What/Who/Where.
Juxtaposition questions are based on the game "would you rather..." where you think of 2 unrelated topics. Follow-up by asking: How are they similar/different?
'The Noah Adam Question Technique': How did you think it was going to work out before it happened? Follow up with: How did it really work out?
'Legacy Questions' are great questions to get started. Ask the person how they want to be remembered. This question will allow you to find out what is important to them.
What do you make of..,, It can't be too broad of a question, for example: What do you make of climate change? It needs to be narrower: What do you think of people who don't believe in climate change?
Other great questions include: (1) What first got you interested in..... (2) If you were a contestant on Jeopardy, what would be your specialist subject? (3) How would your life have been different if... (4) What is your favorite unimportant thing to do?
It's not just the question you ask, it's how you ask them.
'There is a difference between asking a question that provides heat for heat's sake and one that provides heat for light's sake'.
Place any tough questions about 2/3rd of the way in the interview. You must have created enough rapport to allow the tough questions to be asked.
Pre-warn the person a tough question is coming, for example: (1)I want to ask you about something which is interesting but which is perhaps painful to you..." (2) "I am sorry if this seems offensive..."
Highlighting contradictions is a great way of asking tough questions, for example: (1) Help me understand (2) "John said it happened this way and you said it happened this way. Can you help me understand my confusion behind this?
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