David Noël & Isabelle Sonnenfeld of Role Models Podcast
What is the importance of being heard?
David: While we’re all the same—humans—everyone is unique in the way we grow up, and how we experience and approach life. This means that we all have a unique story to tell and stories exist to be told and heard. We all have our own reality and it’s in the diversity of these stories that we find connection and learn from each other. Being heard means connections and as humans, we need connection.
Isa: All of our stories can inspire others to make a decision, to change direction in life or to say goodbye to a habit or job. Telling a story can be liberating for the storyteller, whereby listening to a unique story can trigger new thoughts, emotions and connections. In order to be heard, I think you also have to be a great listener.
What is the responsibility of the listener? What is the responsibility of the speaker?
David: Responsibility might be a big word so perhaps I‘ll use the word invitation: for the speaker, I think it‘s an invitation to open up and share their story and their personal reality filled with experiences, insights, and learnings. It‘s an invitation to inspire, to motivate, and to engage the listener with the goal to trigger thoughts or offer a fresh new set of perspectives.
Isa: The invitation to the listener is to be open and receptive to these perspectives and to resist the urge to make judgement or wanting to react. It‘s an invitation to emphasize with the speaker’s reality and to be curious. Chances are, there is something new to learn from the speaker’s personal story. It‘s an invitation to truly wanting to understand someone else’s reality.
What do you consider an ideal environment for a productive exchange of information?
David: That certainly depends on the situation and the goal. I think that regardless of the environment, a productive exchange of information requires everyone to be fully present and attentive, ideally without any distractions. If those conditions are given, I believe you can have a productive conversation both in person or virtually.
Isa: I agree, it depends on the situation. Trust plays an important role for me. If I feel a certain degree of trust I am more willing to open up and share information that can lead to a compelling, insightful conversation.
Does Role Models podcast facilitate such an environment?
David: For the podcast, we record in-person interviews and virtually via Skype. Both ways have pros and cons and I think that if I could, I would always choose the option to have a conversation in person. Best is a quiet room with little to no room echo. I believe that we do our best and try to always be as present and attentive as possible and that usually works with some exceptions in the past like when Isa’s six-month old daughter chimes in :)
Isa: Oh right, yes - she loves to be on our podcasts ;) We always try to create an environment where our guest feels safe to share their personal story. You create this atmosphere by asking well informed questions that only guide but not dictate a conversation. If you provide your guests with enough space to speak, they speak...openly and personally.
What is your vision of equality?
David: My vision is one in which we don’t have to call out equality specifically because it‘s the norm. For example a vision in which people are compensated equally for equal work. Or a vision in which every panel discussion consists of a diverse and equal representation from the start.
Isa: I agree. We are far away from equality in both the private and the professional life. I want to see my daughter grow up in a world where has the exact same opportunity as boys. We are fighting the fight for the next generation. This should be our motivation as it was for generations in the past. And by equality I don’t only mean equality for women and men but for every human being despite his or her race, belief, sexual orientation or background.
How does your vision of equality inform the Role Models podcast and brand?
David: From the beginning, we’ve wanted Role Models to model the equality that we want to see in the world. Our different formats (our live events as well as the podcast in English and German) will always feature at least a 50/50 split in gender as it currently is for the podcast in English. With the German podcast, we decided to experience with having two co-hosts (Isa and I) and our guests who are women (or who identify as women), so a 66/33 split. For the local events, when Isa interviews it‘s 100% female or when I interview at least 50/50. That way we can always guarantee a 50-100% representation of people who identify as women.
Isa: When inviting our Role Models guest, we are also considering her background, race or sexual orientation to hear stories with different perspectives. Every story is unique because every experience is unique but can still inspire the many.
Role Models podcast offers a platform to women speakers only. Why?
David: We wanted to live and role model equality and that‘s why Isa—who identifies as a woman—and I—who identifies as a man—started Role Models together to make amazing and inspiring women we look up to as role models more visible. We believe that we need to have these conversations together—as men, women, and those who identify as non-binary—and not in isolation.
Isa: Also, we saw a lack of local events and global podcasts that featured women so we wanted to change that. There are so many amazing, kick-ass women out there whose story needs to be heard. We wanted to create this platform to make these role models more visible and create a circle of inspiration. And as Cindy Gallop said in our podcast: “Female role models are just as critical for men as they are for women”. That’s exactly how we think about our brand and our mission.
Thank you so much for your time.