Chapter 9. Managing People During Research

Don’t shift your weight, look always at your mark but don’t stare, be specific but not memorable, be funny but don’t make him laugh. He’s got to like you, then forget you the moment you’ve left his side.

Rusty, Ocean’s Eleven

The elements of a research initiative vary based on scope and type. This makes research seem hard. Fortunately, one common element across any quantitative or qualitative research is you and your team. While you may not be able to control environment or participant engagement, your practice and awareness of social graces can help research feel natural. This chapter looks at some of the softer skills that make research look more natural to participants and stakeholders alike. These skills are not meant to be prescriptive, and vary by culture and environment. We will spend some time exploring the most common interactions.

Host and Guest Norms

For any research where you interact directly with people, it is important to understand and respond appropriately to social or professional cues. This conveys a level of respect that leads to a more natural discussion with participants. One common analogy of this dynamic is the relationship between actors on a stage and the audience. The audience is aware that actors are reading from a script, performing a fictional or historical scene, and transporting the viewer to another place. But through suspension of disbelief and the skill of the actors, the audience is absorbed in the environment ...

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