On my short drive to work each morning, I enjoy listening to my local non-profit radio program on NPR (National Public Radio). What I appreciate about NPR, is that I can count on them to search for the story behind the headlines. For those that are unfamiliar, NPR shares the news of the World (even negative news) and its impact on people, on culture, on politics, etc. in a story filled with metaphors – often including the voices of those who are impacted by or involved in the story. Through the stories shared, a connection is made and I find myself looking for, and uncovering, hope in the most unlikely stories.
Creating Shared Meaning through Our Stories…
Stories have a way of connecting us to one another. We all want, essentially, the same things: Love, Respect, Freedom, Peace, Acceptance, Hope, Inspiration, Health, Family, and Friendship. It is this shared humanness that connects us.
When sharing our stories, not only are we are building connections, but we are also constructing a shared reality the listener. The Constructionist Principle, derived from ‘Social Constructionist’ theory, states that the language we use shapes our social reality. As a result, meaning is made in our conversations, and what emerges as ‘knowledge’ is actually a broad social agreement created among people through communication.
So, what does this mean in practice? It means that every conversation we engage in is important and to always remain mindful of the words we use and the questions we ask. When engaging in conversations, you might ask yourself these questions:
- How will I contribute to the discussion?
- What questions will I ask?
- What stories will I share?
- What reality is being created by the stories we are sharing?
- What meaning are we making in our conversation and what social agreements are emerging?