In this article, the author reflects on her involvement in qualitative health among disadvantaged and disenfranchised groups whose life experiences are, for the most part, very different from her own. Despite the differences, she is persuaded that it is possible to have an empathetic understanding of other people's experiences through research. Recalling experiences from her own research encounters, she shows the ways in which these encounters as embodied and situated interactions generate a powerful methodological potential for gaining insight into other people's lives. She suggests strategies for preserving the layers of context and meaning that can otherwise be lost when research encounters are transformed into research data. Furthermore, the methodological power of qualitative research can mean that research encounters are intense and emotional experiences for researchers. Therefore, she offers some strategies for managing the emotional potency of some of the more distressing life stories that social researchers might come to know.