Welcome to HEN - Transforming Conflict for our Health, Environment, Negotiation
HEN is published each month by Julia Menard:
Helping the Workplace Engage - One Tough Conversation at a Time! juliamenard.com
HEN arrives at the full moon -
because light transforms darkness.
Full Moon: August 18, 2016 - Year 14, Issue 8
Traditionally, the summer issues of HEN are my time to replenish - where content is slim and rest time is large. Summer is the time to kick back, relax and reconnect with and nourish our bodies! It’s also the time that I only write one article for HEN. This is it!
In July, I finished up my course work for my Masters! Going to graduate school, I discovered, is like going through an indoctrination into the world of, surprisingly, philosophy. When I was learning about research, I discovered that philosophy, and how one looks at the world, is at the heart of research. I didn't expect to learn a way of looking at the world from four distinct perspectives.
Four ways to see the world - and why that matters
“What a man sees depends both upon what he looks at and also upon what his previous visual-conceptual experience has taught him to see.”
… Thomas Kuhn.
Over the last month, immersed in my courses at the University, I have come to understand the world of academic research in a new way. To me, it has become a world of philosophy. This is especially true with qualitative research. Qualitative research investigates the quality of an experience. This is opposed to quantitative research, which is more concerned with measurements.
In qualitative research, the starting point is to clarify what paradigm you use to see the world through. This is more challenging than it might appear, as the way we see the world is often hidden from us: just as a fish cannot see the water it swims in, it is difficult to really see the lens through which we see the world.
However, the rewards are tremendous. Being able to see the glasses you are wearing gives you a sense that there is more out there than your own limited viewpoint. If how I’m seeing the world is only one way to see the world, it allows me to open to other possible realities. The world is infinitely more mysterious than any of our limiting perceptions.
So, expanding our perception of the world starts with seeing what limiting lenses we’ve been wearing. Here are the four primary paradigms – or worldviews – common in the research world.
You should be able to recognize all of them to some extent; however, there will probably be one that is your predominant lens. And a caveat: this is only one way of organizing perception – not “the” way – so take it all with a grain of salt!
Again, you may recognize yourself in some of these descriptions or perhaps in all of them to some extent. Humans are not reducible to a theory; then again, that sounds like a post-modern view!
- Positivist – This is the predominant worldview in our neo-European culture in the West. A positivist lens sees the world as fact-based and solid. It’s a world where any observer of that world is neutral and detached. We can prove things in this world through testing our hypotheses and through data, preferably quantifiable and “reliable” data. It’s the world of Newtonian science. The goal here is to predict the world, based on observations.
- Interpretivist – This worldview is more common with storytellers, artists and those who are interested in meaning-making. An interpretivist lens sees the world as full of narratives and subjective stories. It’s a world where the observer cannot be separate from that observed, as we bring our own meaning to the “facts.” We story the way the world looks to us, into existence. The goal here is to understand the world, co-created through our interactions.
- Critical theory – This is the worldview most common with activists, rebels and anyone wanting social change. A critical theory lens sees a world where oppression, especially race, class, gender exists and critiques the structures of power. Critical theory questions how privileged power groups, like politicians, men, capitalism in general, benefits from any action. The stance is suspicion. The goal is emancipation or empowerment.
- Post-modern theory – This is the worldview of a few in our dominant neo-Euro culture. A post-modernist lens sees a world full of complexity and interrelationality. It has a general distrust of any kind of grand theory, seeing the world and individuals within it, as fragmented and not definable. The post-modern view is captured by the moment in the movie “Gandhi” when Gandhi is asked what his religion is and he responds: “I am a Muslim, and a Hindu, and a Christian, and a Jew and so are all of you.”
If you find this article helpful somehow, I'd love for you to spread the word and pass it along to someone you think might enjoy reading about these ideas!
Enjoy the rest of your summer!
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Julia Menard, B.A., Cert. Con. Res., P.C.C.
Leadership & Conflict Coaching, Mediating, & Training