I struggle with listening tasks not because I don’t want to hear but because I’ve always considered myself a talker. This made the task of listening to understand rather than listening to respond a challenging one for me. I decided to listen to the conversation with Ashley Tank. Ashley is the Executive Director Global at UOW, where she oversees all things global that affect the university and the students in a global environment and setting. Upon her introduction, she describes her role as requiring “collaboration” and continues by mentioning that “I’m a collaborator. That’s one of my values”. This stood out to me because I sometimes feel I lack the skill of collaboration but only when I’m in the right environment and with a positive group, do I feel as though collaboration is the only way I can get through a task. This simple description of being a collaborator showcased the importance of working together no matter the scale or level you’re working at and highlighted Ashley’s first value.
As the interview progressed, and conversation around Covid and the change it brought began, Ashley re-membered a story of how she acquired her current position. She had been asked by her then director to “pop into a meeting” to listen to an upcoming project which lead her to “managing the whole thing” referring to the project from that initial meeting. Hearing Ashley’s story about how she acquired her current position made me realise that her club of life member had left a major impact on her story of how she got to her position. Her then director felt that Ashley was more than capable of “managing” because of her previous role and experience in managing inbound and outbound students studying abroad. Further into the interview when asked who Ashley felt knew she was capable of taking on this role, her immediate answer was her then director who believed in her ambitiousness but then also her husband who believed in her. The concept of re-membering a story being recounted introduces the idea that it’s not always the outcome of the story being told that is most important, but the people we find ourselves mentioning that are important to the tale and ultimately are the people that we find to be important to us.
To re-member is ‘to call attention to the reaggregation of members, the figures who belong to one’s life story …’ (Myerhoff 1982, p.11). Michael White further developed the term, introducing it into narrative therapy. This development brings to light the idea that people’s identities are shaped by what can be referred to as a ‘club of life’. ‘Club of life’ initiates the concept that for all of us there are members to our club of life who have a part to play in the way we come to experience ourselves (Russell & Carey, 2002).
Whilst listening to Ashely’s story, it became evident that her then director was not only a crucial member of Ashely’s club of life but also an outsider witnessing her abilities to manage the new project. They had known that Ashley was beyond capable of the role she has now acquired and believed in her to take control of the project. An outsider witness in narrative therapy is “an invited audience to a therapy conversation” (Russell & Carey, 2003). They are invited to listen and acknowledge the story of the person they are listening to, also making me an outsider witness to Ashley’s story and interview.
Listening to Ashley’s interview, I found myself drawn to her stories and language. I connect her comments to my life and can see how we have similar ways of working and similar values. Ashley goes on to mention that she “is the type of person that needs to know everything”. This is something I can strongly connect to as I value curiosity and knowledge in my work life. It is apparent that Ashley feels the same with the way she uses body language to emphasise the importance of this desire to “know everything”. These hand gestures show a sense of realness and as an outsider witness to this story, I can feel her authenticity which Russell & Carey describe a preferred story to be and this is clearly Ashley’s preferred story to describe her work values. “This sense of ‘realness’ or ‘authenticity’ only comes when our preferred stories are witnessed and responded to by a significant audience” (Carey & Russell, 2003)”.
I believe after listening to this interview with Ashley Tank, that re-membering and more specifically, our club of life members are those who shape us and allow us to develop our own preferred stories on how we ended up in the position we are in today and an outsider witness like Ashley’s then director, have the ability change the projection of our career goals.