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The question of interruptions always comes up.

I of course try not to interrupt but I do interrupt by sign language or mouthing.For instance when there is the first mention of an organization: for instance when someone says the initials and there’s no knowing to the listener what it would be. So the person might say “ABA” and I will say (shrugs); or (mouthing); or I will actually say “the Australian Broadcasting Authority” for those absolute clear and simple clarifications.  But nothing else.

I allow silence and never interrupt. If the interviewee suddenly falls silent, I don’t go for the button. I wait – and wait – and wait – and see if the thought has come; and then we proceed. So keep the hands off the stop button

If people are talking about a subject where I know that there are stories, I remind them: ask them for any stories that they remember. I ask them about any people that they particularly remember.

There’s another technique which I find useful when an interviewee is talking descriptively for a long time and it doesn’t seem to be going anywhere it looks if it’s going to peter out.  It’s not a bad idea to suggest a question like “and what does that story lead you to think?”, or “where is that argument taking you?” It’s a way of concentrating a summary but also getting – not just the observation for oral history – but the meaning. And that’s helpful.

At the end of the interview, I do – as I have mentioned before – allow for a break, for the interviewee to go away and think about anything that they might still want to say, and come back and record those afterthoughts and conclude the interview. And I go home and as soon as it’s available I commence work on the log of the interview.

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