On Knowing Stuff.

I was 16 when I worked in my first newsroom. And about that time I learned about two different interview styles. 

The first was to research the subject or subject matter thoroughly before the interview, so that when you arrived to meet the person or place, you could get all cable network on the subject, asking "hardball" questions that cut right to the heart of the matter. 

The second interview style I learned about espoused the opposite: Don't learn much about the subject beforehand and come to the interview with fresh eyes, so that you would not ask leading questions and you would experience the person or event totally objectively and avoid presumption. 

I found my place somewhere in between the two. 

I glorified long, breathy features articles that ambled along their subject's side. But I also felt too nervous, too green, and too unconfident to go without any research. So I'd exhaust the Google pages learning about people and their subject matters. But when it came to the interview, I'd react as if I were hearing something for the first time. This was because I believed 1) This appoach better removed myself from the piece and allowed the subject to express themselves instead of react to me (this made the piece more accurate); 2) I could capture quotes that better summarized the subject's opinions, especially for those people who were not naturally talkative.

Over time, I realized that people really liked to know stuff and educate people. If you bust into a bar and talk to the bartender like you know more about her drinks than she does, they won't like you much. But if you come with an open mind, she will more often show you how she likes to mix. In general, I decided, it was better to let people talk about what they knew, even if I already knew it. Nobody liked a Know It All.

Today, however, I started thinking about a simple notion: It's OK to know stuff, and it's OK to express it. 

In general, I believe that listening can change the world. Nearly every conflict I encountered as an RA started with either a misunderstanding or a lack of empathy. Companies do well when they listen to their customers. And writers can succeed when they think about their audience.

But now as an adult—especially as a woman in a large, global company—I'm realizing that sometimes it's OK to admit, "Yes, I knew that, and here's more."