What is “Listening”?

Carmen Leung, 16–08–15, Smarties, Reflection

Is he a “Lonely Elderly”?
Elderly were sitting around in Sham Shui Po — Near MTR Exit

It sounded easy to collect stories before we went out of the Lab. However, difficulties came when we stepped out of the Lab. We did not know where to reach a “Lonely elderly”, how to start a conversation with them, what to do if they give us a short answer, how to use follow-ups to go deep in conversation, etc.

Mutual Topic

It is better to start with a casual topic with elderly, like “Hi! Have you had your lunch?”, “Have you bought food for dinner?”

In conversations, mutual topics can create resonance. When the old woman, one of our interviewees, talked about her work place, Tai Kok Tsui, before her retirement, our teammate Judy said her mother also lived there as a kid. As a result, the old woman intended to share more about that.

Assumption and expectation

When we asked them questions, like “Do you think Sham Shui Po (SSP) has changed a lot/ is changing?”, “Are you satisfied with the living standard and environment while you live in Sham Shui Po?”, etc., we expected that they would answer SSP has changed a lot, bringing them inconvenience; or they would express their dissatisfaction with such kind of environment. However, their answers were not in line with our expectations.


From my observation, we kept on asking them questions as they replied in very short answers for every question. It was difficult for them to share with us in depth.

It seems that we were urged to find “Problems” in the elderly and to provide them with a “Solution” rather than “Listen” for them. So we just had a “Question-and-Answer” session with them, not stories sharing.

Yes! We do have to learn “Listening” before figuring out the problems and solutions.

What is the way? We may practise more on it. Maybe “Listening without assumption and expectation” is better. Maybe “Listening” is a solution.

There is no doubt that time limitation is a barrier to conduct an in-depth and comprehensive interview. Just try our best this time!


When we walked along Yen Chow Street, many elderly were found to be selling second-hand or new stuff.

This scene tells us: they are self-reliant. If they have ability and energy, they will try to earn money on their own.