multiple perspectives

Being Open to Multiple Perspectives Enriches Relationships, With Ken Gergen – PS045

Kenneth Gergen Pd.D., President of Board of The Taos Institute talks about Social Construction, and the value and benefits of seeing the world through multiple perspectives. He offers that it's the relational process that enables meaningful collaborations.

Social Construction

Many of the listeners who are practitioners of Appreciative Inquiry or students of social sciences will know Professor Ken Gergen and his awesome body of work in the field of Social Construction. Please check out the links at the end of these notes to find out more about Ken:  his bio, how to connect with him on his websites, and on social media. You'll see links to his fourteen books and over 300 manuscripts and publications, as well as a video on Social Construction on The Taos Institute website.

Ken Gergen on multiple perspectivesIn our conversation, Ken introduces Social Construction in a historical context of our need to understand who we are and how things function.  He reminds us that as a species we're on a quest to get to the “truth.”  Science, as a discipline is doing well in this game.  We hear “backed by scientific research”, “science says” .  I do it myself.   Yet, perceiving the world only through the perspective of science is just one way of viewing the world.  There are many other disciplines through which we view what's going on in our worlds.

The essence of Social Construction is that we construct our realities – our truths – through our language, our relationships, and our orientation to the world. We bring our own perspectives, our history, our cultural imprint to situations. A feminist has a construct of the world, as does a lawyer, a psychiatrist, a gardner, a biologist, a geologist, a teacher, a pacifist, a gun advocate, and so on.

Multiple Perspectives

Our quest for homogeneity, for sameness, for convergence leaves many of us marginalized.  If we discount the multiplicity of values, ideas, experiences we exclude people from the conversation. Voices get lost or are silenced when convergence is valued over divergence.

Listen in to Ken as he asks the question “Who am I?”  He illustrates how we are valued for different reasons by different professional groups.  Every group has its own vocabulary and ways of looking at people and the world.  These ways of looking are related to what these groups care about.  We all have vested interests.  We approach each other through our own orientation to the world.

Enriching Relationships

The opportunity is this orientation of Social Construction, which is not a belief or a truth, is that we can enrich our relationships.  Every tradition has its traditions and orientation to the world.  We have the potential to maximize the range of understandings.  The Social Constructionist's perspective is the reverse the Western tradition of converging to a single view.  The opportunity is to diverge and enrich relationships by valuing multiple perspectives.

  • Constructionist work hangs on discourse.
  • We need to talk.
  • What other realities can we take into account?
  • If you broaden your sensitivity to who you are, you broaden your perspectives.
  • We are multi-beings.
  • We carry with us a myriad of perspectives.
  • Let's listen to all the voices.

Global Conversations

We can’t afford to be so sure of ourselves anymore in this world where technology enables us to stay in touch 24/7 . The conversation has opened up to a global scale.  Therefore, we have to be able to participate in those wider conversations, and understand the multiplicities of world views.

  • It's beyond inclusive.  It's integrative.
  • Working in dialogue allows us to appreciate the multiple perspectives. 
  • It's the  value of story over abstractions.

The Relational Process

Technology allows us to be in connection all the time – the strong sense of individual identity is disappearing, because we realize we aren’t anything outside the connections.  Ken suggests:

I connect, therefore I am.

has replaced

I think, therefore I am.

This is world changing.

Ken points out:  With our mobile connections, our experience becomes

I have no identity outside my connections.

 This is a shift:  the center for creating the world is in the relational process, not in our individual  identity. We have the opportunity to create a new language for the new world we are co-creating.  We can make real the relational process.

PPositivity Lens NotebookOSITIVITY LENS for this Episode

Download Ken's suggested “positive activities” for this episode: Hint – it’s about expanding meaning through the relational process through our language and in conversation.

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Flexible Organizations

Listen in to how the conversation flows.  We talk about the need for flexible organizations – governments, businesses, schools, hospitals. Because conversations are moving so fast, the relational process is worthy of our attention.

 Through collaborative practices, we have an opportunity to inject joy and energy into all sectors  to encourage  more voices into the conversations.

Links Mentioned In This Episode

Ken’s Manuscripts/Papers

Books Mentioned In This Episode


[amazonjs asin=”0195305388″ locale=”US” title=”Relational Being: Beyond Self and Community”]

[amazonjs asin=”1446296474″ locale=”US” title=”An Invitation to Social Construction”]

[amazonjs asin=”0465071856″ locale=”US” title=”The Saturated Self: Dilemmas Of Identity In Contemporary Life”]

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