Home Interpersonal & Group Psychology Influence / Communication The Wonder of Interpersonal Relationships IV: A Pull Forward to the Social Construction of Reality

The Wonder of Interpersonal Relationships IV: A Pull Forward to the Social Construction of Reality

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One of the wonders of interpersonal relationships concerns the way(s) in which we find our personal identity in the midst of our interaction with other people. In many ways we construct our sense of self when meeting with other people.  Ken Gergen (2009) identifies this constructive process as the formation of a “relational self.” This might particularly be the case for those people who are pulled forward into the social world. As I mentioned in the first essay in this series (Bergquist, 2023a), this pulling and interpersonal construction of self could often be found among Extraverts–who are “experience-junkies” looking to multiple sources of inspiration and insight.

Taken to the extreme, the Extravert is inclined to find the “real world” in their relationships with other people. Leslie Brothers (2001) describes this extreme stance in her account of ways in which we construct reality within relationships. As a result, the Extravert is particularly vulnerable to “group think” and to what was first identified by Peter Berger and Thomas Luchmann as the “social construction of reality.” (Berger and Luchmann, 1966). The enmeshment that complements an Extraverted personality trait is also likely to complement a specific way in which to see and interpret the world in which the Extravert lives and works.

All of this holds several important implications for the way in which Extraverts construct their sense of self—and even their sense of the “real” world. It is tempting for Extraverts to rely on other people and institutions to define their sense of self and reality. Fortunately, the diversity that they seek is an important corrective to this compelling tendency of Extraverts to be uncritical in their acceptance of specific sources of information regarding themselves and the world in which they live and work.

Ontological Perspectives

I joined with a colleague (Bergquist and Eggren, 2011) several years ago in proposed two interrelated dimensions regarding the nature of knowledge (epistemology). One dimension concerns a distinction drawn by Julio Olalla (Olalla and Bergquist, 2008) between the static or dynamic nature of one’s notion about Being. Is “being” a noun or a verb? Are we talking about an object or about a process? The second dimension concerns the basic assumption that it is or is not possible to ultimately identify the basic nature of being—in other words, to accurately describe and validate reality. Those who believe this description is possible are called “objectivists” and those who believe it is not possible are called “constructivists.”

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