I’ve always loved the Mark Twain quote:
“I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.”
Short letters require editing. They require actively choosing what pieces of information to leave in, and what to leave out. There is something just a little bit contrived about them. These days, I find I don’t have time for short letters, or for short sound bites either. Both leave me questioning everything; especially the news sound bites. I want citations for every statistic, I wonder what has been omitted by the de riguer editing process that so many “news” stories undergo. I honestly mean it when I say that I would rather listen to Bernie Sanders’ eight-hour filibuster than listen to the talking heads on the news networks as they condense it down for me. I want to listen to more.
So today, I wanted to share a few podcasts that take the time to tell beautiful, long stories about people and their lives. I find that listening to these podcasts on a regular basis helps me to hone and stretch my listening skills, and challenge me to think deeply about someone else’s point of view, their challenges, and their values (all which may be different than my own). What I love about the people in these stories is that through their voices, you can hear their worries, their happiness, their frustrations…their truth. As a user researcher, this is gold to me. Cadence, inflection, tone, all of these things carry so much meaning. Identifying them is critical to what we do. Suspending judgement, setting aside our personal opinions, and developing empathy are also critical, and I believe require practice.
I am always surprised by something in the stories, which serves as an important remind me that I neither have all the answers, nor am I supposed to. Just like when I do user research: the more I do it, the more I realize there are no shortcuts to understanding what really motivates people. It all comes down to listening.
- Here on Earth
- This American Life
- The Critical Lede
- Local StoryCorps: Story Corps Comes to Hampton Roads and StoryCorps San Antonio
So during your commute, or while folding laundry, or while snowblowing, listen to these beautiful stories. I realize these too have been “produced,” but each does a really thoughtful job at communicating context, and each has a lot of heart. I’d love to hear your thoughts on these podcasts, and if I’ve missed any that you enjoy, feel free to post a comment.