Interview Guidelines 

You can compile the most compelling stories from the senior you chose to write about, by using these interviewing techniques:

Open Questions

Open questions invite others to “tell their story” in their own words, without leading them in a specific direction. Open questions should be used often in conversation but not exclusively. Of course, when asking open questions, you must be willing to listen to the person’s response.

Here are some open questions to consider, to elicit storytelling:  
           1. When and where were you born?
           2. What were your successes growing up there?
           3. What were your challenges growing up there?
           4. Who in your life inspired you the most?
           5. What are your favourite memories growing up?
           6. What are some interesting facts about your culture?
           7. What did you like about your family growing up?
           8. What did you like about living in your native country?
           9. When did you come to Canada?
          10. What challenges did you encounter after coming to Canada?
          11. How did you overcome those challenges?
          12. How are you dealing with the challenges that you are still experiencing?
          13. What new meaning or successes did you build, since coming to Canada?
          14. What are some inspirational quotes (or bible verses) that helped you in life?
          15. What are a few things that you are most proud of, about your life?
          16. If you could live your life again, what would you do differently?
          17. What advice would you give to younger people today?

Reflective & Active Listening
Reflective listening allows the person who is being asked a question the opportunity to extract their thoughts to say what they really mean.

Active listening requires you to not only listen but respond effectively to what they are saying. Examples of reflective & active listening can be tricky, but think of paraphrasing them, letting them know you understand what they meant. Simply repeating the words sometimes may not be enough.


Affirmations are statements and gestures that recognize client strengths and acknowledge behaviours that lead in the direction of positive change, no matter how big or small. Affirmations build confidence in one’s ability to change. To be effective, affirmations must be genuine and congruent.


         1. "You handled yourself really well in that situation."
         2. "Very compelling story, truly inspirational."


Summaries are special applications of reflective listening. They can be used throughout a conversation but are particularly helpful at transition points, for example, after the person has spoken about a particular topic, has recounted a personal experience, or when the encounter is nearing an end. Summarizing helps to ensure that there is clear communication between the speaker and listener. Also, it can provide a ‘stepping stone’ towards change. A key trick to using summaries in the middle of an interview is to simply recap bits and pieces of long information and to make sense of it all or to help identify the answer given. Sometimes this can be quite difficult as it depends on the interviewee involved, however, we trust that you will use reflective & active listening to fully understand your chosen senior.


i) Here is what I’ve heard…... Did I miss anything important?

Golden Roots

is a writing project for Canadian students. They will interview and write the life story of a Canadian senior in their local community.

  • Phone: 604-200-1230
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