An article from the Harvard Business Review courtesy of Niki (Veronica) Fielding’s new newsletter Owlthena, validated one of my favorite approaches to reporting: Keep prepared questions to a minimum and just ‘follow the trail’ of where the conversation leads.
It works only when there is no time limit, and when you have the freedom to circle back to the subject again, but it’s pretty exciting to start at square one as if you know almost nothing. When you let one question lead to another, both you and your subject may be surprised at the discoveries.
HBR says: Follow-up questions seem to have special power. They signal to your conversation partner that you are listening, care, and want to know more. People interacting with a partner who asks lots of follow-up questions tend to feel respected and heard.
It also works for me to say, at the beginning, anything can be off the record:
HBR: People also tend to be more forthcoming when given an escape hatch or “out” in a conversation. For example, if they are told that they can change their answers at any point, they tend to open up more—even though they rarely end up making changes.
The article came to me in Niki’s new Owlthena newsletter, “What’s Hot Wednesday,” an assembly of business studies that I would not have seen. The one from HBR was by Alison Wood Brooks and Leslie K. John. (Feminist thought: is it a coincidence that this intensive study on listening was done by women?)
One caution about this approach: Many busy people don’t want to give you the time to meander down uncharted lanes. Keep the prepared questions in your pocket.
Living three blocks from a school, I am continually surprised to see parents walking fourth graders to and fro. Yet I remember how my sister and I walked ourselves to school in every grade. As for my kids, I never accompanied my kids to the bus stop and often I didn’t keep tabs on where, in the neighborhood, they were.
Is it such a different world? This article in the Atlantic explains how today’s parents protect their children — and question whether that’s needed or effective.
Pat Tanner bills herself as the sixth of seven children in a food-obsessed Italian family, and she admits that the terms ‘food-obsessed’ and ‘Italian’ are redundant. An award-winning food writer, restaurant critic, and blogger, Tanner speaks at the Princeton chamber breakfast on Valentine’s Day, Wednesday, February 14, at the Nassau Club, starting at 7:30 a.m.
Always devoted to some aspect of food, Tanner edited the Zagat Survey, contributed to publications such as the New York Times and New Jersey Monthly, hosted a live, weekly radio show, co-founded the Central Jersey Chapter of Slow Food, and catered meals delivered to homes, In fact, that’s when I first met her — Tanner delivered dinners to my fridge in the ’80s.
She has written for U.S. 1 Newspaper since 2002 – later for the Princeton Echo of Community News – chronicling how Princeton added fine dining opportunities to what was pretty much a wasteland.
In true U.S. 1 fashion, Tanner told the stories behind the cooking personalities, as in this profile of three women bakers. Early in her tenure she shared what she taught to financial advisors: a top 10 list of breaches of dining etiquette. She’s not too uppity to review a hot dog stand, She has a blog, dinewithpat.com.
Last year, when Tanner put food writing on the back burner, she began letting her picture be published. (Food critics try to remain anonymous.) But her fans keep hoping to lure her to the table. The breakfast table at the Nassau Club is the place to be on Wednesday.
Here’s a wonderful piece by Margarita Cambest in the Towson Times, a Baltimore Sun newspaper, about my Girl Scout troop, the Merrie Landers, and our 1957 10-week trip to Europe. A memorable moment in time. I’m in the first row, far right, in both pictures. Fashion note that Cambest included: we camped in Girl Scout uniform dresses. We weren’t allowed to wear pants.
It’s 6:30 am at Franklin Corner Deli, and in walks Jerry Fennelly, one of my best ‘sources’ when I was reporting on real estate, picking up morning coffee for his 13 hour day. What’s new, Jerry? He obligingly launches into his trend analysis (I haven’t seen it, but you can order it). My take on what he said:
landlords should worry, businesses are taking smaller offices than their job roster warrants because many workers will be traveling or working from home. Fennelly cited a company that is taking half the space that the workforce size would warrant.
retail real estate dealers should worry because the whole world of real estate is morphing into an Amazon-endangered zone.
Fennelly and I enjoy a back and forth about the prospects of shoe stores and food stores. Shoe stores, he admits, might survive because bunion-sufferers like to try on shoes. The food business might be transformed by the Peapods and the Blue Aprons, but folks will still patronize the entertainment side of food – restaurants.
Today a New York Times article underlines Fennelly’s proposition. What we in Princeton know as “shared office space” began l-o-n-g ago with businesses like Princeton Office Solutions in inexpensive (now ancient) developments like Hilton Realty’s Research Park. The cheapest rental space is the mailbox they keep for you, and you can rent conference rooms if you need to meet a client.
In the ’80s and ’90s independent landlords operated these spaces all over Greater Princeton. Last time I looked (disclaimer, I retired 5 years ago and no longer track this), virtually all the Class A spaces had been bought out by Regus.
The next new business model might be for large co-working space operators to rent large amounts of space for, according to a NYT source, “commercial landlords who want to maintain a hands-off approach with renters and not have to provide copy machines, mail forwarding and receptionists to individual tenants.” In other words, the co-working spaces will house – not just start-ups and entrepreneurs but significantly sized companies.
Employers are ending or reducing remote-work arrangements as managers demand more collaboration, closer contact with customers—and more control over the workday. But bringing workers back to the office isn’t easy.
Fennelly went on his way and I went back to Delaware Valley Physical Therapy to introduce a friend to the ministrations of the fabulous Jim Schorsch. Seems to me these two trends will prevail — the value of chance encounters like this one, and the viability of hands-on occupations like the various therapies. You can’t massage a sore knee with TV medicine.
I’ll start with Juliet Eilperin’s coverage of the healthcare bill in the Washington Post, “From hospitals, doctors, and patients, a last gasp of opposition to the Senate health-care bill,” A Daily Princetonian alumna, the Post’s senior national affairs correspondent, she tells of how hospitals have mounted unusual lobbying efforts. ‘While McConnell had been pressing for a vote on the measure before the end of June, the delay gave opponents more time to marshal their arguments and make their case to lawmakers. This final lobbying push represents opponents’ best chance of derailing McConnell’s final drive to passage, which continues to look uncertain.’
Today the CEO of Incyte, Herve Hoppenot, speaks at the Princeton Regional chamber lunch. Look for me in a striped jacket. At age six I ‘worked’ in my parents’ cancer research lab and 70 years later I have a vested interest in new cancer cures.
Looking back can be so much fun, especially when your past can encourage someone else’s future. Léni Paquet-Morante, an artist who has kept touch with me over several decades, called with her latest news. I took vicarious joy in what she is doing now.
Morante had been busy with raising three children, volunteering in their schools, rehabbing an historic house, and supporting the successful career of her sculptor husband, G. Frederick Morante. In 1984 they met at the Johnson Atelier, where she did bronze, copper, and clay sculpture. I wrote about her husband’s work for U.S. 1 Newspaper in the late ’80s. His Daedulus remains one of my favorite pieces, and his ‘Relative’ is one of the large bronzes that J. Seward Johnson commissioned for Grounds for Sculpture.
Thirty years later (can it really be that long ago?) I am retired, Fred is on the staff at the Digital Atelier, and Leni has turned the page in her career. With her children grown, she carved out a space next to the kitchen for her studio and declared independence from cooking dinner.
Leni has a solo show opening Wednesday, July 5, at Princeton University’s 113 Dickinson Hall, called “Atmosphere, Place an Time,” described as “paintings that represent familiar local landscapes but which also hint at something more complex.” Best of all, she has an artist residency award at the Lacawac Field Sanctuary in Lake Ariel, PA, and will have two weeks of focused studio and plein-air work next October.
I smiled and smiled when Leni spoke of being recognized with a two-week residency because in 1980 — at almost exactly the same point in my career, I had had a similar opportunity. I landed an NEA Fellowship to a dance critics workshop at the American Dance Festival at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina. Along with a dozen journalist from around the country, I took movement classes, saw concerts, wrote reviews, and was totally immersed in dance.
It was triply sweet.
Barbara Figge at ADF 1960
I could leave family cares behind for three weeks.
It was my second visit to ADF: 20 years before I had gone to ADF when it was at Connecticut College. That summer persuaded me not to a pursue a dance career. Now, three children later, struggling to make my mark as a journalist, I could go back to ADF as a working dance critic.
I returned to my ‘stomping ground.” ADF had moved to my alma mater, Duke University.
So, yes, I can truly rejoice with Leni Morante. She is using every available minute to paint. Right now she has a day job, so she paints on weekends, but in October — I smile and encourage her painting sabbatical. Meanwhile, with vicarious joy, I will admire her work.
“Atmosphere, Place, and Time,” paintings by Léni Paquet-Morante, will be on view starting Wednesday, July 5, at 113 Dickinson Hall. This gallery, curated by Dana Lichtstrahl, is sponsored by Princeton University’s Center for Gender and Sexuality Studies and is open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. A “meet the artist” reception is Friday, July 14, noon to 2 p.m. Her home-based studio is in Hamilton, NJ. Her portfolio since 1984 includes painting, bronze,copper, and clay sculpture, some of which is represented in NJ corporate collections, private collections locally and internationally, and as public art. A full CV and other works can be seen on her website http://www.lenimorante.com. Requests to meet the artist and/or for additional image files can be made through firstname.lastname@example.org or cell 609-610- 3631.
Happy birthday to Richard K. Rein, who turned the Big Seven Oh yesterday and ruminated on the milestone in his column today, here.
Seventy’s good, from my point of view. Seven years ago I ruminated on the same number, here. The wisdom that still works today is from Frederick Buechner: “The place God calls you to is where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”
In a NYT article, Choral Music is Slow Food for the Soul, composer Nico Muhly has wise observations about how “the choral tradition operated in a series of interlocking cycles based on the liturgical year, with the music and the musicians playing a role in a larger drama.” Rather than expecting applause, church choir singing is “meant for worship…to be heard in a state of quiet meditation.. to guide the mind out of the building into unseen heights and depths.”
Choristers — and attentive listeners — will agree with Muhly, that the liturgical tradition of choral music brings “sharp pangs of nostalgia, followed by a sense of gratitude that this tradition has been such an important part of my musical world.”
I can’t say that I like salamanders but I have an affection for them. My summer job at age 13 was feeding strips of beef liver to their cousins, Mexican axolotls, in the Figge lab.
This is the season when the salamanders cross the Beekman Road in East Brunswick. (No chicken jokes, please) And they need protection. Locals have organized to keep them being run over in the middle of the night, as described in this Packet story by Vashti Harris.
I went once, armed with a flashlight, and I did see one spotted salamander cross the road. It was exciting. What I mostly remember is the choral din of the spring peepers.
When to go? When the salamanders decide it’s time, on a warm night. Here’s how to plan your trip. Take the family but give each child a flashlight so they DON’T step on one.
Here’s what they look like — nothing like their Mexican cousins, which reach adulthood without undergoing metamorphosis. They never develop lungs, never walk on land — they keep their gills.
Axolotl photo from Wikipedia. Spotted Salamander photo from Friends of the East Burnswick Environmental Commission.