​How To Begin


Copyright © 2015 by Paul Shike

The greatest compliment that was ever paid me was when one asked me

what I thought, and attended to my answer.

                                           ~ Henry David Thoreau

Learning of the life experiences and special memories of an important person in your life will be an enriching process. The more we share and know about each other, the greater the opportunity to strengthen our relationships. Before beginning this journey with someone special, be sure to share with them why they are important to you.

The person you are interviewing will usually begin to answer the questions based on their understanding. Do not become bogged down by what exactly a question is asking. You will gain more by listening to the answers, than by debating the correct way to answer a question.

Respect that there are reasons for not wanting to share certain memories. There are no rules stating that the person must answer a question. Conversely, they may want to share their answers to some of the questions with only you. Honor all requests for confidentiality.

Be sure to respect the person’s answers. In most cases, there is no right or wrong answer to a question. Avoid challenging them over the details of events. Challenges may lead to a breakdown in the discussion. Be positive and try to keep the discussion moving forward.

For each story, gather as many details as possible. Knowing that you went with your Grandpa Taylor to see the Brooklyn Dodgers vs. the New York Yankees provides a deeper understanding than the mere fact that you went to a baseball game with your grandpa. Details, such as names and places, will help to enhance and preserve the memories.

Be sure to ask “why” as the questions are answered. Discovering your parents’ favorite song is great, but knowing why it is their favorite song will be better. Enjoy the additional questions that will certainly arise as you go through the book.

You may not always have the opportunity to sit down together and ask the questions. A great way to work through the book is to ask a few of the questions each time you talk over the phone. Consider scheduling a specific time each week to discuss a few of the questions. As you piece together the information over time, utilize this process to build a stronger relationship.

If you have siblings, consider a group discussion. You may get enhanced answers by asking these questions in a group. The dynamics of the group will help to enrich the discussion.

I do hope that you start sooner rather than later. You never know when you may lose the opportunity to discover this information. My advice is to begin today. Trust from my experience, once you cannot get the answers you will wish that you could go back in time to ask these questions.