Introduction to Narrative Practice

In BCM311 we have begun an introduction into narrative practice achieved through class exercises and reflection. My understanding of narrative practice interview techniques is that they focus on an individual being the expert of their own life where being curious, genuine and following the direction of the interviewee are important aspects (Morgan, 2000). We have been practising interviewing each other with structured questions and watching Kate interview guests, considering our own values and thinking about the values of others as revealed through interview.

One of the interview tasks we have completed as a class was to form a structured narrative surrounding a critical incident so as to understand the idea of the absent but implicit. This is where something missing from a situation is what points out what is valued. Initially I struggled to think of an incident that bothered me but eventually remembered how I was annoyed by a transaction where I bought a laptop charger. After some discussion it became clear that what irritated me about the slow interaction was the inefficiency of the situation.  The absent but implicit value in this situation was efficiency and this was something that I realised I value highly in many aspects of my life. I was interested in how deconstructing the incident and spending time thinking and talking about it brought this value to light. Having since done some reading on narrative practice I found that Winslade (2002) commented on the benefits of looking at incidents in this way, he found that the common response on deconstructing an incident was that it “transforms their understanding.” (Winslade, 2002)

In our first week we named three professional values that we saw in ourselves. Mine were direction, communication and flexibility. By direction I mean that I am able to give direction to those around me and that I find work much easier to complete when I have been given direction with specified time frames and outcomes. This links to my value of communication as I listen well and value being understood. Flexibility is something that I think is important as being able to adapt and learn quickly can be of benefit in a range of situations. In the following weeks through interview practices mentioned above I have found that I also value efficiency. I prefer when things are done as well as possible, as easily as possible and find myself very irritated at my own procrastination and the procrastination of others.

My main career intention is to eventually become an accountant. It will be a few years before I can complete an accounting degree and I would like to work a lot more than I have during my media and communication degree. The values I have labelled so far do fit a life in accountancy I think, especially efficiency and direction as processes and timeliness are important features in this career path.

Prior to this class I had not very deeply about what I value. However, the discussion in the previous few weeks have indicated to me that my initial thoughts on my professional values are part of a much broader list of values and labels that could describe me personally and professionally. These first few terms are truthful but I think with more work in narrative professionalism I could develop more accurate and precise and concise ways of describing myself. For example, direction and communication have already developed into the value of efficiency.

From early on in this class I found that it was easier to see values in others rather than in myself. Each time we as a class are asked to find a word to describe a guest after listening to Kate interview them every student finds a different word for the same person. The words we come up with are often more precise and less like the broad, sweeping words we have used to describe ourselves, for example conviction or no-nonsense rather than communicative or passionate.

This is what signalled to me that over the course of the semester and further narrative practice work  I expect to polish the way I describe my own values and understand my professional self better.  Kate has demonstrated how narrative practice interview techniques require curiosity and following the direction of the person being interviewed. For example, focusing on the exact wording a person uses or noticing when a word or phrase is used multiple times as this can signal something that is of importance to a person and may point toward a value. This demonstration has also given us an opportunity to practice our listening skills and engage with the narrative format while developing our understanding of the importance of values across personal and professional life. The narrative form has also allowed for a deeper and more precise insight into what a person’s professional values can entail. I look forward to developing these ideas further and improving my own narrative practice interview techniques during the semester.

One thought on “Introduction to Narrative Practice

  1. Paris, I’m so interested that you noticed that it’s easier to say something precise about another person than it is about yourself, and that this is observable across the whole group. I would agree with this, but I hadn’t put it so clearly in my own mind.

    So first I wonder if you have a sense of why this might be?

    I’m also curious to know whether you think closer attention to detail engages with your appreciation of efficiency? Is efficiency a matter of detail? And does this connect to accountancy as a career path?

    One of the consequences of reflecting on the value that you hold close that is troubled by a difficult incident is that you learn something about how you advocate when your values are overlooked, or even threatened. Do you choose to speak up about those values, or do you hold them silently? (Neither are better ways of doing things.)

    I’ve found in my own professional experience that if you do sometimes need to speak up for something that is important to your practice, it can really help to prepare by thinking of two or three other incidents where this commitment has been helpful, including to you. This way you don’t advocate from a defensive position, but with the confidence that this value is effective and that you have a good history with it.

    Something I notice here is the high standard of proofreading. This seems to fit with precision. Is precision the same as efficiency?

    (OK, now I finally come inefficiently to the real question here: what is efficiency?)

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