Why I Am Stuck Doing Email Interviews

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.

Operator! Operator!
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.

1 comment

  1. Hi there- I found your blog when I did a search for my name. Thank you for reading my article. I just wanted to let you know that I appreciate you bringing to light a subject I did not address in my article. For you and others with hearing impairment, e-mail interviewing can definitley open up new and exciting ways to get information. I did not mean to ignore that. Thanks for bringing it up. If I ever republish this article elsewhere, I will be sure to add this.
    On a side note- a woman named Emilia is one of the main people who inspired my book (www.adultlearneranthology.com) She and her husband have two deaf children. They moved to my area from Bulgaria so that their childred could get a better education- she and her husband were engineers and had wonderful jobs, but once they arrived here, they had to get training to work here. There is more to the story- but that gives you a nutshell version. I was so inspired by how strong a women she was, and what she gave up for her children.

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