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Interviewing a Stranger Using a Narrative Approach- A reflection

Last week for my BCM313 (The Future of Work) class, I had to identify someone that was working professionally in a way relevant to my future and conduct a interview with them using a narrative approach.

The narrative approach to helping is based on constructionist thinking about how we are ‘constructed’ as people by the power of words – by how we are spoken of, by how our lives are ‘authored’ by society and its cultures. 

O’Byrne, 2015, p.123

15,528+ Interview Images | Free Download
Image Credit: Stories (2020) via Free Pik

Preparing for the interview I first asked around my friend and family circles if anyone had a contact working in a marketing role that would be willing to participate in an interview.

Image credit: Adams, n.d. via LinkedIn

Fortunately my father was acquainted with Sonia Adams the Marketing Executive for his company GHD; a global project management organisation, and he was able to help me get into contact with her. After exchanging emails and explaining what I was trying to do Sonia was generous enough to agree to spare some free time and speak with me.

After organising a time I could call, I then began to prepare possible questions I could ask and map out a couple directions I thought these questions could take me. The questions focused on Sonia’s professional values, managing change in the workplace and expectations for the future of work.

I felt a little anxious at thought of interviewing Sonia as I had never interviewed anyone before and because she holds a very senior position in GHD. Luckily Sonia permitted me to record our conversation, which removed a little of the pressure from the interview and also allowed me to better reflect on what she had said.

Gif credit: Echosmith (n.d.) via Giphy

During the interview I had a small stumble, I asked Sonia for a story about an instance where she had to deal with change. She then provided me with two great (albeit slightly complicated) stories about commercial and organisational change she had faced and instead of asking follow up questions about the values that helped her manage these changes, I froze, panicked (especially about wasting her time) and moved on to a different question.

Whilst I had obtained plenty of other information from the interview I could use for my presentation I felt disappointed in myself that I hadn’t asked better questions.

Reflecting now I realise that that feeling had a lot to do with my personal value of pride in my work. I always try to do the best I can and when I think I haven’t done that I can be a little harsh on myself…

Prior to and after the interview I read through some sources on narrative thinking (particularly focusing on Michael White‘s work), which I believed created a strong foundation from which I could base my understanding.

Whilst listening to Sonia’s story and all throughout the interview I tried my best to engage in double listening, which Michael White explains involves asking ourselves, “What are the subjugated meanings that the problem story relies upon for its expression? How do these connect with stories of preference and how can we bring them forward?” (Carrey et al. 2009, p.3).

Furthermore, White’s ‘absent but implicit’ theory was particularly helpful in allowing me allow me to better understand the values Sonia was expressing in this story.

Jill Freedman suggests this theory can be explained as,

Persons make meaning of an experience through contrasting it with other experiences, so that in order to distinguish something as a problem we must be contrasting it to some preferred experience.

Madigan, 2019, p.123

Using ‘double listening’ and the principle of the absent but implicit I reflected on Sonia’s language choice, and I think that her story reflects that the values of responsibility, respect for authority and others and having confidence in ones’ abilities are important to her.

Presenting online? Engage Your Audience! | MindForest - Managing Change
(Mindforest, n.d.)

Pre-recording my presentation meant that I didn’t have to stress about my (dodgy) internet connection whilst I shared what I learnt with my classmates.

One of the big questions my peers asked me during our time for questions, was whether I thought that the fact Sonia’s colleagues questioned her authority/competence was related to gender inequality in the workplace. (You can listen to the full story in my presentation video).

Reflecting on that, I think it’s hard to say whether that situation occurred due to sexism. However I do think that everyone does make assumptions (consciously or subconsciously) about a person based on their own understandings of the world and that these assumptions affect how we interact with one another.

Another question that came up during the presentation was, “what quality do you admire most about your interviewee?”. I thought this was fascinating to think about as my answer also reflects the qualities and values that are important to me.

Some of Sonia’s qualities that really stood out to me during our conversation were her confidence and resilience.

My admiration for her confidence in particular, I think reflects my own desire to be that experienced and that confident one day. But don’t worry, if there’s one thing this class has taught me it is how important small steps are, and I think I’m making more and more small steps everyday.

Overall, I learned a lot from making this presentation, particularly that conducting interviews are hard and that there is so much to learn from listening to the stories we tell.

Thanks so much for reading you can check out my presentation below!

My Narrative Interview Presentation


Adams, S., n.d. Linked In Profile Picture. [image] Available at: <; [Accessed 20 October 2020].

Carrey, M, Walther, S & Russel, S, 2009, ‘The Absent but Implicit – a map to support therapeutic enquiry’, Family Process, Vol. 48, No. 3, viewed October 20 2020, <;

Echosmith, n.d. Facepalm GIF. Giphy. Available at: <; [Accessed 21 October 2020].

Madigan, S, 2019, ‘Recent Developments and Future Directions in Narrative Therapy’, Narrative Therapy, Second Edition, The American Psychological Association.  pp. 117-160

Mindforest, n.d. Presenting Online. [image] Available at: <; [Accessed 24 October 2020].

O’Byrne, P, 2015, ‘Laura Beres, The Narrative Practitioner’, Journal of Social Work, Vol. 16, No. 1, pp.122-123

Stories, 2020. Interview Concept Illustration. [image] Free Pik. Available at: <a href=””>Work vector created by stories –</a&gt; [Accessed 21 October 2020].


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