The New Johari Window #18. Quadrant One: Continental School of Thought Regarding Interpersonal Needs and Quad One General Implications

The New Johari Window #18. Quadrant One: Continental School of Thought Regarding Interpersonal Needs and Quad One General Implications

Social Construction of Reality

Several social scientists have written about the social construction of reality—notably Berger and Luckmann. It is assumed that an “objective” sense of reality can never be attained, given that this reality is always viewed and evaluated within a specific social context and through the lens of specific societal values, cultural perspectives, untested assumptions and political agendas. In their embracing of a constructivist notion of reality, these social scientists have taken a significant step in positing that language (or more generally the use of symbols and signs) is central to the definition and description of reality.

Language is not simply a handmaiden for reality, as the objectivists would suggest. Language is not a secondary vehicle that we must employ when commenting on the reality that underlies and is the reference point for this language. While objectivism is based on the assumption that there is a constant reality to which one can refer (through the use of language and other symbol/sign systems), constructivism is based on the assumption that the mode and content of discourse is the closest thing we have to a reality. If reality is a social construction, then the language being used to describe this elusive and changing reality is itself a major source of this social construction.

One of the major implications of this constructivist analysis is that our language creates our reality and that reality is therefore ephemeral. Once we have spoken, the reality is not present that was created when we were speaking. Even if we say the same words, they are spoken in a different context, hence have somewhat different meaning. Thus, even when our “speaking” comes in the form of written words or in the form of other images (visual, tactile, etc.), these words or images will have different meaning. Meaning will shift depending on the audience, what the setting is in which the communication takes place, and which words or images have preceded and will follow these efforts at communication.

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About the Author

William BergquistWilliam Bergquist, Ph.D. An international coach and consultant in the fields of psychology, management and public administration, author of more than 50 books, and president of a psychology institute. Dr. Bergquist consults on and writes about personal, group, organizational and societal transitions and transformations. His published work ranges from the personal transitions of men and women in their 50s and the struggles of men and women in recovering from strokes to the experiences of freedom among the men and women of Eastern Europe following the collapse of the Soviet Union. In recent years, Bergquist has focused on the processes of organizational coaching. He is coauthor with Agnes Mura of coachbook, co-founder of the International Journal of Coaching in Organizations and co-founder of the International Consortium for Coaching in Organizations.

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