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This meaning making of how our relational connections make a difference is woven into the
dissertation process. The utilization of autoethnography in the appreciative reflections,
where my relationship with the participants is situated in the story, chronicles “self in
relation to others” (Ellingson & Elis, 2008, 454). In my case, “Doing autoethnography
affects individuals who do the work of ‘re-storying’ their lives; the autoethnographic story
becomes part of the life, an element of the ongoing construction of self” (Ellingson & Ellis,
2008, p. 455). After writing the appreciative reflections, I not only better understood my
own relationship with all the participants but it also informs my past position with freelance
work while also resituating and expanding my present attitude toward work in the future.
This full circle re-storying also enables the participants to see themselves differently and
contributes to their own sense making of what they do for a living. As relational beings, we
are in an endless loop of meaning-making together.
Conversations Are The Language of Relationships; The Centerpiece of
Meaning Making and Collaboration
The story we tell about work or life, whether based in fact or fiction, involves our relational
connection with others and is carried through conversations. In a book entitled Bakhtin
and His World dialogue is described with three schematic elements, “a dialogue is
composed of an utterance, a reply, and a relationship between the two. It is the relation
that is most important of the three, for without it the other two would have no meaning”
(Holquist, 1990, p. 38). According to Harlene Anderson, “In dialogue, participants jointly
examine, question, wonder, and reflect on the issues at hand. Through these two-way
exchanges, participants try to understand each other and the uniqueness of the other’s
language and meaning from the other’s perspective not theirs” (Anderson, 2012, p. 10-11).
How we make meaning and understand the world is born of dialogue; and relational
conversations are the centerpiece of meaning making.
The Stance of “Not Knowing” Activates Curiosity, Opens Dialogue, and
Creates Space for Multiple Realities
Whether in the world of therapy or trying to understand another person’s point of view, it is
important to take a stance of curiosity and not-knowing where we “acknowledge the
limitations of any position or opinion, professional and personal, knowing that any single
view of reality is one of many and has been constructed within the relationships and
institutions with (in) which one, historically and currently, interacts” (Gehart, Tarragona &
Bava, 2007, p. 375). With a social constructionist stance, assumptions about the “other”
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