Trust Building Methodology

Maryam Assadi Jafari
Translated by Natalie Haghverdian


According to the Iran Oral History Website, the audience of this website upload their technical inquiries on oral history in Questions from Professionals. In response to the question of “Which preparations and steps guarantee the emotional and psychological preparedness of both parties to the interview to build trust and promote relative assurance of the truth of the dialogue?” we conducted interviews with two professional experts in the field as follows. 



“Pre-interview preparedness” is the most sensitive step in oral history interview

Yahya Niazi, scholar and oral historian of the Holy Defense, on the trust building factors in oral history to establish a proper communication in between the interviewer and the interviewee said: “The most important factor in building trust is the characteristic of the individual or the nature of the organization. For instance, the Islamic Revolutionary Guidance Documentation Center has a structural affiliation, and some people rely on this affiliation. Suppose many of the commanders who are linked to the Center for Holy Defense Research and Documentation to record oral history may not collaborate to other centers. Trust here is structural trust. Because they believe the center is backed by rich narrators of the war. So they show up to the organization. The second component is the interviewer. If the interviewer is a well-known person and has the required information and understanding of the subject, the interviewee will trust this person.”

Based on individual experiences in the field of oral history, he described the components needed by the interviewer during the interview: "The first oral history interview or pre-session is one of the most important and most sensitive stages of oral history. Oral history projects have been abandoned in the same pre-session. That is, neither the interviewer was interested in continuing the work nor the interviewee. When we examine it, it is clear that the distrust of the parties was a major problem. So, at the first session, the interviewer should take a few moments to get the original confidence of the interviewee. The first thing to do is to be organized and punctual. If you set the meeting at 3 o'clock, you should not be late. Second is being equipped with tools and appliances. If it is arranged to make a video of the first session, the cameraman must be available before you begin work as soon as the interviewee arrives. Third, since the interviewee still feels strange and the required dialogue is not in place, he should be given the opportunity to say what he wants in the first session. That is, recounting memories or issues that may have happened to him in a period of time. For example, some warriors and commanders have seen insecurities since the end of the war. When you interview these people, they like to share these issues with the interviewer. If you get a defensive or do not let them tell their stories, it will build mistrust. Fourth, the interviewer should seek guidance from the people trusted by the interviewee. Sometimes a call or follow up with these people is very handy.”

The interviewer and author of the book "Telecommunications in the War narrated by Sardar Shiraninejad" emphasized: "The preparation of a series of documents and topics of interest to the narrator is also effective in gaining trust. For example, provide some narrative manuscripts from the time of his responsibility or some photos of him in the first session. This will create trust. At the very first session, you have to take the narrator to review the pleasant memories in his mind. The next issue at the first meeting is the expression of sympathy and happiness with the narrator in his narration of disaster or joy. It is essential to express positive comments about the narrator at the first session. In some parts you should challenge the narrator. We should ask him why you took such decision. But at the first session we are not allowed to express this content. These issues result in mistrust. But on the other hand, when the narrator's positive points and a few important things are reminded at the first session, the nodes of each topic can be opened up on the way. "



Peaceful Ambiance Guarantees Honesty

Valiallah Mossayebi, a local history doctorate from the University of Isfahan, also referred to the methods of building trust between the interviewee and the interviewee, and added: "we were supposed to carry out a study titled Historical Explanation of the Prevalence of MS in Iran. First, we chose a spatial cut, containing 42 residential rural and urban areas. Then, due to lack of sufficient information for 6 months, we conducted field studies in these areas to identify people with MS. Because people with MS, they hide their illness and do not want their relatives, friends and researchers to know their status; the identification and building trust in patients and their families for interviews seemed very difficult, and perhaps no one would consent to an interview.

Eventually, out of 125 patients, we succeeded in gaining the trust of 25 patients with MS. This was done with the help of trusted local people and a friend suffering MS who accompanied the interviewer in all interview sessions and explained the objectives of the project to the patients and their families. We assured MS patients that the interviews would not be published without their permission.”

"In two years ago, we started an oral history project of one of the country's banks based on interviews with 39 branch managers," he explained in a statement on the conditions of confidence between the interviewee and the interviewer on organizational projects. Since the methods and techniques of oral history in Iran are still new, at the beginning of the project, we were introduced to the interviewees by the Bank’s Public Relations Department to provide preliminary measures for oral history interviews in 12 provincial centers. However, some provincial branch administrators were not open to share their information at the beginning.”

"The interviewers must also be selected from among individuals and have completed the necessary training," said Dr. Mosayebi, pointing out the diverse characteristics of the interviewees. For example, if we interrupt the interviewee or interrupt the interview in negligence, we will undoubtedly harm the interview process. The narrator must be sure that no words will be published without his permission, and the text will be corrected by the interviewee after the final transcription. In fact, the interviewee is an oral source and cannot be said that all he says are 100% accurate. The narrator is known as a source, and we use our best efforts to convince them to tell the truth. They might later recant their story or exaggerate some issues due to fear. The atmosphere of the interview must be such that the narrator is comfortable and able to speak honestly. "

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