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A One-to-One Relational Meeting* is an intentional process of getting to know what motivates another person. It helps to develop respect for people of different backgrounds and is the foundation of work across differences. Some call the one-to-one the genius of the generation of civic efforts because it breaks down stereotypes and it also changes the rules of involvement. Today, much civic engagement is based on the idea of "outreach", trying to get people involved in the issues which have already been defined, directed towards outcomes already determined. If you use one-to-ones to find out others' self-interests, hopes and dreams, and story of self, you are doing something different: enlisting people by engaging them in what they are interested in. You begin to co-create a civic effort and way forward together.
A one-to-one involves a conscious exploration of another person's interests, passions, most important relationships, role models, cultural roots, beliefs, and life journey. One-to-ones depend upon putting aside prejudgments and stereotypes and listening carefully and strategically. People will constantly surprise and amaze you with talents and insights you never imagined. One-to-one meetings are also a way to develop new power through building public relationships. Like other civic skills, they involve a good deal of practice.
To find out other's self-interests requires that you learn to listen in a particular way, with attention to body language, emotional tone, and the sparkle in their eye. You identify what energizes and excites the other person. One-to-ones aim at overcoming another's story - you are listening to people's interests and potential to take action with others. You are not creating a therapeutic or intimate relationship, where you delve into hardships in order to provide comfort
Tips and Tools
- Be prepared. Set up the visit in advance, think about what you want to know, and make the visit short (about 40-50mins). The visit should be face-to-face.
- Keep it informal. A one-to-one differs from a job interview , a survey, or an academic approach. You do not have to have a standardized set of questions - you go with the flow, noticing body language, sources of passion, personal histories. You do not take notes. You need to listen in order to ask good follow-up questions. You probe.
- Look for connections. Ask open-ended questions to keep the conversation flowing. Look for connections and contrasts in experience between yourself and your interviewee, but resist launching into long stories about yourself. The other person should be doing most of the talking - 80% them, 20% you as a general rule.
- Ask direct questions. Find out what is important to the other person. For instance, ask about her connections to her home, or how she came to her job. Find out about the public issues that make her angry or energized. "Why did you get involved in this group?" " Why do you care about this issue?" "What have you learned from this experience?" Be curious, courageous (and respectful).
- Avoid asking yes and no questions. They are too quick and you don't learn much. If you do ask them, follow up with "why?"
- Listen well. Build on what your interviewee has already said. This involves paying close attention . An interviewee who feels listened to in likely to talk more than someone who feels that their words are falling on deaf ears (or a distracted mind...put the phone away).
- Be sure you understand. Clarify what the talker is saying be restating what you have heard and asking if you have got it right.
- Look for the energy for action. If you can see that the person is fired up about a public issue, ask if she has ever taken action on it before, and how. Find out if she would be interested in working with others to take further action. Plan a follow up, if it is useful.
- Evaluate. Afterward, think about the outcome of the interview. What worked? What can you do better next time? Evaluation and reflection are important for remembering the highlights of the visit and the other person's self-interests, along with your own growth and development with this skill. Writing a short memo about the meeting will help you remember.
Adapted with permission from Dennis Donovan, Sabo Center for Democracy and Citizenship, Augsburg University