Addressing an Anger Issue with Phenomenological Method

Introduction

The concept of reflective practice has increasingly become popular in various professional practices and in the field of education. Its meaning may vary from one discipline to another, but its fundamental principles remain unchanged. According to Moran (2000, p. 56) reflective practice involves giving attention to theories and practical values in our daily actions through the examination of practices reflexively and reflectively. It involves taking time to think about the events of the past and picking important areas of learning in order to avoid making similar mistakes in the future, or to know how to address a given task better. It helps in effective development of self-awareness of an individual, making it easy to learn personal weaknesses and strengths. Self-awareness is not only important in the field of education, but also in other professional fields. It helps an individual to have a better capacity of dealing with environmental issues that may have serious impact on self, the organisation one is working for, or the society. Reflective practice in the field of education has become an important instrument that enables learners to have self-criticism and to identify areas of weaknesses that may need to be addressed in order to deal with challenges that learners may face from time to time.

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Understanding reflective practice is very important because it enables one to have a structured and regular manner of reviewing past events and how they relate to the current activities (Moon 2004). In most of the cases, people may think about past experiences but fail to put them into perspective and draw lessons from them in a way that can guide future practice. The lack of clear and systematic review of the past experiences makes it easy to repeat the same mistakes made in the past and to fail to advance a new skill that could have been developed in such experiences (Kuchinke 2007). That is why it is important for one to develop a formal or regular pattern of reviewing past experiences with the aim of improving future performances. In this paper, the researcher focuses on the critical analysis of the concepts of reflective practice, phenomenology, and methodology.

Aim of the Paper

According to Winstanley (2005), reflective practice, phenomenology, and methodology are concepts which are closely interrelated. One cannot have an effective review of personal experiences without having to look at phenomenology and methodology. Personal experiences and learning opportunities take place through various phenomena which occur in one’s life. It may be a serious event such as a major disaster or daily activities such as a lesson in class. Irrespective of the magnitude of given phenomena, their occurrences always offer the most appropriate learning opportunity. One learns how something would have been done better, or mistakes that were made that gave rise to a given undesirable occurrence. It also enables one to know about possible reasons that made a given phenomenon desirable and successful. Methodology is also very important because it ties together the concepts of phenomenology and reflective practice (Moran 2000). For every event to take place there must be a pattern or a series of events that are interrelated (Willis 1999). As mentioned above, a given phenomenon may result into something desirable or undesirable based on the method used and the aim of the involved parties (Willis 1999).

During reflective practice, one can easily identify experiences that are undesirable and those that are desirable (Willis 1999). However, this cannot be possible without understanding the methodology that led to the experience that was witnessed in a given phenomenon (Kuchinke 2007). Whether it is in the field of education or professional practice, one must understand the patterns that were taken and how they led to what was finally achieved in order to identify issues that should be avoided in the future. In this paper, the primary aim is to understand the importance of reflective practice, and to determine how phenomenology and methodology shape it. The researcher will base the discussion on an incident that happened in the workplace.

Understanding Reflexivity and Reflective Practice

According to Priest and Sturgess (2005), reflexivity and reflective practice are two closely related concepts that do not necessarily mean the same thing. Some scholars often use these two words interchangeably, but it is important to note that they are often used in various contexts to explain events, which may not necessarily be the same. Gelter (2003, p. 340) says that reflexivity is “the idea that a person’s thoughts and ideas tend to be inherently biased, and that values and thoughts of a person will be represented in their work.” It has more to do with internal dialogue where one critically questions one’s own reactions, behaviour, thoughts, and actions with the aim of understanding personal roles in relations to others in a given phenomenon (Gelter 2003). It also involves examination of personal involvements in a given phenomenon, and awareness of limits in personal knowledge, and how others may be influenced by it (Gelter 2003). The concept of reflexivity makes it possible for a person to have a more critical analysis of circumstances or relationships with the aim of revising strategies used (Gelter 2003).

The term reflective practice can be interpreted in different contexts in various areas of reflection and can be applied in professional practice to facilitate positive critique in order to improve work done in a given profession. Leshman and Trafford (2006, p. 22) define reflective practice as “the capacity to reflect on actions so as to engage in a process of continuous learning.” It involves problematising a given practice with the aim of developing new skills, knowledge, and attitude that the practice demands. A practitioner will be coming up with new ways and strategies of handling the same tasks in order to have better results in the future (Leshman & Trafford 2006). In the context of education, Bleakley (1999) argue that reflective practice may assist postgraduate students to develop effective interpersonal, cognitive and capabilities in a challenging academic environment. It is important to look at the levels of reflective learning provided by Bain et al. (2002).

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Phenomenology

Phenomenology as an approach of study is very popular in qualitative research where descriptive data to a given event is required (Moran 2000). Douglas (2003, p. 223) defines phenomenology as “a philosophy or method of inquiry based on the premise that reality consists of objects and events as they are perceived or understood in human consciousness and not of anything independent of human consciousness.” As stated in this definition, phenomenology entails a study of events based on how they manifest themselves in the human consciousness (Moran 2000). As opposed to natural science, phenomenology focuses on experiences from the first person point of view. It involves looking at events in our consciousness and how they interrelate. In qualitative studies, phenomenology provides experiences that are often stated in a subjective manner (Moran 2000; Douglas 2003). It is subjective because it is based on what one thinks about what happened based on personal knowledge and experiences. It gives one the freedom to give an event personal interpretation based on the angle with which one looks at the incident.

Jasper (2003) states that phenomenology heavily relies on personal experiences, knowledge, and skills. People with different levels of knowledge, skills, and experience often have varying views and understandings towards given experiences. A person who is highly skilled, knowledgeable, and experienced will have a better understanding of why specific events follow a given pattern. They may have a detailed understanding to a given situation. However, people with limited knowledge may easily allow their understanding of a given phenomenon to be influenced by personal thoughts or beliefs, which may lack strong foundation. It is because of the subjective manner in which phenomenology is applied that makes it a tool only meant to be used by highly knowledgeable, skilled, and experienced individuals who can have proper analysis of events based on the existing knowledge instead of basing judgments or reasons on personal beliefs (Jasper 2003).

Betts (2004, p. 244) argues that when using phenomenology, one should focus on the experiences as felt by individuals under investigation as opposed to using the science of nature to give justification of events. The focus should be on the contextual experiences or the immediate knowledge gathered from a given event (Betts 2004).

Lifeworld (Lebenswelt), a concept that is very popular in phenomenology, implies the immediate experiences that one has in the world. As such, Kuchinke (2007) says that it rejects the possible use of predetermined understanding of issues in a way that may affect the current judgment of events. Phenomenological attitude required in this context highly encourages the need for empathic openness towards world experiences in order to judge current events based on facts, not past beliefs and practices (Kuchinke 2007). Reflexivity involves learning new experiences by critically questioning events as they happen (Jasper 2003). In so far as the past events inform our knowledge, each experience should be treated independently and should be considered an opportunity to learn something new. This is only possible if one remains objective in analysing each event despite the subjective nature of phenomenology itself as a qualitative approach of analysis.

Phenomenology can be classified into the following major types: realistic, eidetic, constitutive, existential, and hermeneutical phenomenology (Jasper 2003). Realistic phenomenology, according to Jasper (2003, p. 45), focuses on “the search for the universal essences of various sorts of matters, including human actions, motives, and selves”. It looks at mental acts as directed by ideal and real objects. Eidetic phenomenology refers to a situation where mental images are unusually vivid, as though they are actually visible (Jasper 2003). Constitutive, also known as transcendence phenomenology, takes intuitive experiences as the starting point and from it extracts generalised experiences (Jasper 2003). Existential phenomenology holds that an observer may not have detached point of view because he or she cannot separate self from the experiences (Jasper 2003). The observer lives the experiences. Hermeneutical phenomenology focuses on the interpretation of the events that occur (Jasper 2003).

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Phenomenology and Reflective Practice

In reflective practice, phenomenology as a method of analysing events and situations may be very important (Leshman & Trafford 2006). However, it demands that one must rise above personalised feelings and experiences and see the events taking place as new phenomena that are unique in one way or the other hence should be treated as such (Moran 2000). While interrogating personal understanding, one must remain focused on the phenomenon by giving it fresh eyes, not ones that have had past experiences, which appear to be similar (Moran 200). Learning through lived-experiences requires one to be open-minded. In reflective practice, one must understand that the aim is to have personal conversations of a given event and use them to develop a new concept in life that will make it possible to address similar issues in a better manner (Leshman & Trafford 2006). As Winstanley (2005) advises, the whole new perspective needed on reflective practice does not mean that fundamental concepts that are already learnt should be neglected. On the contrary, they should be used to identify what is new in the phenomenon, and how the new factor affected the final outcome of the event. This way, one is able to understand how the changing environmental patterns may affect conventional practices in a given field (Winstanley 2005).

As a qualitative approach for conducting research, phenomenology can be applied to reflective practice by engaging an event of interest in a dialectical and interactive process of hermeneutic reflexivity (Betts 2004). This way, a researcher is able to put aside pre-understandings in order to reflexively and critically interrogate a new concept (Betts 2004). A good example can be the work of fire-fighters in an organisational setting (Norman 2012). It is often believed that some of the common causes of fire include mishandling of explosive materials, faulty electrical appliances or connection, or such similar events. Norman (2012) says that fire-fighters may rush and make a quick conclusion that fire was caused by any of the common reasons that are often given. In such instances, they will not conduct further inquiry to understand what actually happened because the experts involved had pre-understanding of the event and used their knowledge to make conclusions.

When this happens, the chances are high that the underlying problem will remain unresolved and the possibility of having a similar experience may remain high (Norman 2012). That is the subjective approach that most people often take when using phenomenology as a method of research. However, when it is used in reflective practice, such past experiences should not form the basis of the conclusion that is made by the team investigating the issue. In the case of fire outbreak discussed above, the investigative team will put aside all the pre-understandings of the events and give it a new eye. It means that they will interrogate the issue as though it has never happened before in order to collect new facts (Norman 2012). Through such objective interrogations, they are able to discover new information that may not necessarily be related to the past beliefs (Norman 2012). That is what entails learning. The new perspective makes it possible to learn of other new factors that can cause a fire so that a comprehensive plan that addresses both the traditional and the new causes of fire can be put in place. The experiences that were lived through will form the basis of new knowledge that shall inform future practice (Norman 2012).

According to Moon (2002), hermeneutic reflexivity can be applied in both academic research and in practice. When used appropriately, one is able to gather new knowledge on various issues in various fields. That is the essence of research. When conducting a professional or academic research, the primary aim is often to come up with new knowledge that will address the existing gaps or resolve conflicting information in the existing bodies of knowledge (Moon 2002). New knowledge can only be obtained if the investigative team is willing to let go of the pre-understandings (Kuchinke 2007). The team must be willing to embrace new concepts based on the new experiences as a way of learning. Although new knowledge should help in enhancing the existing knowledge, the investigative team should avoid instances where it forces new knowledge to fit into a given pattern so that it may be in line with the existing knowledge (Kuchinke 2007). The team should allow the new knowledge to come out independently and from it a link can be found that ties the existing knowledge to the new knowledge. It does not matter whether the investigation is for academic or practice purposes. The experience and skills of the interrogator should be used objectively to allow for a free development of a new concept, and once determined, it can then be joined together with the current knowledge (Kuchinke 2007).

Reflecting about work

In this section, it will be critically analysed how phenomenology and reflective practice can be used in a workplace setting.

Phenomenology as a concept is very important at work because it emphasises on the need to ‘bracket’ experience, remove any prejudice, and treat every single event as something that is unique and not necessarily related to what many consider as the norm (Moran 2000; Haan 2005). Haan (2005) warns that it is important to ensure that past experiences do not cloud our present way of viewing various events that may occur in life.

Bain et al. (2002) – Levels of Reflective Learning: The Analysis of the Situation

The experiences that we have should be able to define our future practices. They ought to explain what the future entails, and what needs to be done to avoid unpleasant experiences of the past. The levels of reflective learning provided by Bain et al. (2002) offer a systematic method that one can use to think through a given situation or experience in order to have a better capacity to deal with similar incidents in the future. Using a systematic method makes it possible to identify specific areas of strengths and weaknesses in the experience of the past, making it possible to come up with solutions that can be used in the future when handling similar or related events (Betts 2004). Below are the five steps of the model supplied by Bain et al. (2002) that the researcher used for reflective learning. An incident that occurred at the Community College during the preparation for the Annual Humanities Conference is referenced.

‘Thinking without Borders’ was a major conference that was to be hosted by the College in March 2014. The organising committee, which was comprised of a number of students and teaching staff, played a major role in ensuring that this conference went on as was expected. The researcher was a member of this committee. In one of the first meetings held by the committee, the task was to come up with an appropriate logo for the conference. This was an urgent task because the logo was to be designed earlier, but the committee had not yet been constituted. After a period of brainstorming, the committee agreed on a picture of a stretched arm holding earth in the palm. The committee was temporarily happy for the creativity of this logo given the limited time that was available, until a female voice was heard suggesting a radical change in the design to give it an Arabic taste.

According to the researcher’s colleague, it was necessary to come up with a logo that would be more appealing to the Arabic audience, who would be the majority of the attendants of the conference. Everyone was shocked, and in unison they asked why the colleague developed such a feeling. The colleague responded that the attendants would be more offended seeing a sleeve of a western shirt instead of Arabic Thob, a dress code considered official in Qatar. The researcher got frustrated listening to such a ridiculous argument and told her that it lacks basis in their modern society where they live in a global village, thus responding in an angry manner that elicited various reactions from the other colleagues present.

Before starting a phenomenological analysis of the situation, it is important to note that, indeed, the researcher’s reaction to the comment of his colleague was perceived as shocking by a significant part of the committee. While it might not be possible to precisely describe the exact reason why the members of the committee were shocked, the method of hermeneutics can be used in order to create a number of possible interpretations which may give an insight into these reasons (Schmidt 2014). For example, it is possible to assume that the audience was shocked primarily due to the tone of the researcher, who voiced his comment to the colleague in a rather angry, loud and dissatisfied manner. It can be hypothesised that his response was viewed primarily as a way to offend the colleague and put her down, rather than a rational argument aimed at refuting her claims. Another option is that the researcher was perceived as a racist or a sexist, for he shouted loudly at a Black woman who had only begun speaking something. It is also possible that some of the members also disliked the term “global village,” and perceived it as offensive either to themselves or to someone else.

On the other hand, the reasons why people became shocked also require a phenomenological investigation. According to the findings of phenomenologists, individuals may experience shock as a result of a situation in which they perceive something that is radically new to them, or when they become witnesses of a situation that goes completely contrary to their beliefs, their convictions, and their worldview, and is considered unacceptable by them (Seyidov 2013). Therefore, it is logical to assume that the members of the committee were shocked because they perceived the researcher’s reply as unacceptable; perhaps this resulted from the aggressive voice tone of the researcher.

It is also possible to utilize both phenomenology and hermeneutics to explain the situation, for instance, by using phenomenology to delve into one’s motives, and then by using hermeneutics to provide a number of interpretations of these (Seebohm 2007). Thus, the situation can also be analysed from the point of view of the researcher’s beliefs, some of which were acquired by him during his childhood. Because the researcher had lived in a Communist country, it was unnatural to him to pay attention to racial differences. This meant not only that he disliked discrimination but also that he did not see the need to pay some special respects to one’s race. It may be possible to assume that the colleague’s attempt to not offend some of the guests based on their racial status was interpreted by the researcher as an attempt to flatter members of a particular race. Another option is that the researcher thought that the other races are being discriminated by the colleague’s offer. And, of course, the researcher was possibly frustrated about the thought of needing to remake the logotype anew.

After describing a number of hermeneutical interpretations of the situation, it is a good idea to start a phenomenological analysis as well.

Recording/Reporting

The first level of reflective learning is recording or reporting an event. One must be able to have a clear memory of what happened and the issues involved either in professional practice or learning environment. At this level, one is expected to know the experience gained from the event, instances where difficulties were witnessed and instances where things happened as per or beyond the expectations. In the case study given in the appendix, the entire incident that was triggered by the colleague should be recorded in the mind.

While recollecting the event, it is necessary to “bracket” the experience, that is, to refrain from providing any theoretical explanations of the given event (Moran 2000). Such explanations, should they occur without reflection, will be based on the most meaningful and bright previous experiences of the individual who conducts the analysis. On the other hand, the theoretical knowledge that was not used in practice much will not be employed. Therefore, “bracketing” the immediately occurring explanation opens a path for creating a variety of possible explanations and then considering all of them.

The first explanation that came to the researcher’s mind when observing the colleague state that the created logo was inappropriate was that the colleague had been insincere to the work group over the last few months while the logo had been being created. It is important to “bracket” this interpretation in order to open path for other possible explanations of the situation.

It is possible to assume that the researcher felt that the colleague was insincere due to the fact that she had had numerous opportunities to express her views prior to the meeting. However, she was absolutely passive during the previous meetings that the committee had, and virtually said not a single word. This is why, perhaps, the researcher thought that the colleague was being insincere and only wished to disrupt the process – because hermeneutically, he interpreted her as a passive member of the committee; it appeared as if she waited until the last moment when everything was ready, and then decided to spoil that moment. Phenomenologically, this may be due to the fact that the researcher had previously “attached” a certain “label” to that colleague, which may have happened due to the nature of the previous interactions between the researcher and the colleague (Dreyfus & Wrathall 2009; Schmidt 2014).

However, it is important to phenomenologically investigate insincerity as well. According to Seyidov (2013, p. 128), “insincerity and lying are the means by which a person engages in a socially approved type of behavior, regardless of whether he actually accepts the forms and standards of behavior of a given social milieu”. This may often happen at work, where an individual needs to behave in accordance with the rules that are established there; if the individual has no power over these rules, they have to either comply with them (and be insincere) or not to comply (and, usually, face the consequences of it). Of course, if the colleague was indeed driven by the wish to comply with the norms of the community she was in, this was, obviously, an unsuccessful attempt. Nevertheless, it indeed might have been a feeling of the researcher that the colleague made her comment only to mark herself as a part of the committee, only to say something so as to show that she was a part of it as well; this feeling may have induced the researcher’s anger.

Responding

The next level is to involve personal emotions based on the observations. One is expected to give personal response to a situation or issue based on the observations made and feelings developed. It is possible to state what was pleasant and what was not, and give reasons why there is the feeling of satisfaction or dissatisfaction. Moon (1999) argues that while responding to a situation, it is important to be sincere to oneself. Issues such as self-pity, negative attitude, and favouritism often tend to cloud one’s judgment; hence, they may influence the thought pattern when giving a response. However, it is important to embrace sincerity in order to be in a position to address a similar issue in a better way in future.

As it is noted in the case, the researcher experienced a mixture of strong negative feelings towards the incident. These feelings included outrage and anger, as well as frustration and annoyance. The anger is of particular interest here, for it was the strongest emotion that the researcher felt at the time. It is stated that anger is experienced when one feels that they have been treated with slight, and the slight has been unjustified; anger is also induced by outrage (Hadreas 2016). However, once anger becomes the object of an analysis, it transforms significantly; it becomes more complex, and starts being undermined by doubt and by shame (Dreyfus & Wrathall 2009, pp. 303-304). This is what occurred when the researcher started reflecting upon that anger.

Indeed, it was extremely unpleasant to have the result of a two months’ work wasted due to a remark of a person who did not even participate in the meetings actively, being only a passive observer. It was also particularly irritating that the colleague waited until the very last moment, when the logo was just to be agreed upon, to voice her concerns. In fact, due to her previous inactivity, the colleague was observed as an outsider who suddenly decided to spoil the team’s efforts rather than a member of the team who also should have had a voice. It is possible to state that the researcher felt that not only he but also his other colleagues from the committee were treated with slight, which induced the sense of outrage and, consequently, anger. In addition, the fact that the colleague was African American and found the logo potentially offensive to Arabs when no member of the committee who had Arab origins did so was also incomprehensible and frustrating;as if a person would know what the members of a different social group want or think better than the representatives of that group.

Hermeneutically, however, a number of interpretations are possible (Seebohm 2007); it can be hypothesised, for instance, that the colleague had only come up with the thought that the logotype was offensive to some Arabs only a short period of time prior to that meeting; perhaps she saw a similar logotype somewhere in an offensive context, or read that it was offensive, or somebody told her that it can be such, etc. It also might be possible that the colleague suddenly recollected something during that meeting, and that memory urged her to act and to state that the logotype was inappropriate. And yet, it was an immediate assumption of the researcher that what the colleague wanted was to simply spoil the results of two months’ work, which also added to the researcher’s anger. The researcher was extremely irritated about the fact that because of that person the group was facing the possibility of going through the whole process of the logotype creation anew.

Thus, it is possible to state that the colleague’s intervention was perceived as a sign of slight. In addition, it may be assumed that the anger was, in part, a result of the researcher’s being overloaded with work outside the committee; furthermore, the fact that the researcher has teenage children who are sometimes difficult to handle might also have catalysed his reaction to his colleague’s statement.

In fact, according to the findings of phenomenologists, the human is a historical being; every person has a story, and is concerned about this story (Moran & Embree 2004). One’s story influences not only the decisions of that individual but also the way in which they perceive the surrounding world; for instance, one who lived in danger all their life will likely perceive everything as a source of danger, whereas those who were safe all their lives will generally be trusting. Because one’s personal life is a critical part of their story, this personal life will influence their decisions and their perceptions of the surrounding world (Moran & Embree 2004). The impact of the personal life also took place in the case with the researcher: having teenage children gives him joy, but children demand much effort, and the fact that they are difficult to handle leads to additional stress, making the researcher more tired and more prone to overreacting to unpleasant situations.

Therefore, perhaps the researcher’s strong response was, to a certain extent, a protective reaction, an attempt to defend the results of the researcher’s work from a potential threat. The perceived threat originated from the fact that the committee, and the researcher himself, had spent a considerable amount of time designing the old logotype. The researcher thought that the colleague was now able to spoil the results of his work and make him and the committee create a logotype anew. In this regard, it is important to comment upon why people might perceive others as a threat. Phenomenological explorations discovered that this may be due to viewing another as an outsider, as a person who is not of “ours” but of “theirs.”

Here, “they” are perceived as aliens, and, because the intent of an alien is unknown, it might be an automatic reaction to take a defensive stance against them (Moran & Embree 2004), for it is often better to make sure that the situation is safe rather than be sorry afterwards. It is in the human society, in the safety where one learns to suppress this instinct and to perceive others as neutral and benevolent (Moran 2000). However, when one is a part of a tightly-knit group, and then an unfamiliar person comes and acts as if they have a full-fledged membership of that group, simultaneously trying to argue that what the group has been doing is wrong, the described logic pushes one towards perceiving the newcomer as a threat (Moran & Embree 2004). This might be the case of what has happened to the researcher: the colleague made the impression of a newcomer who attempted to argue about or ruin something that the group has been working on for a while, which is why the researcher unconsciously perceived her as a threat.

It is possible to hermeneutically uncover some other interpretations of the one’s behaviour (Friston & Frith 2015). It might be hypothesised that the researcher, perceiving the colleague as an outsider, in addition to what has been said about a threat, did not wish to let her inside their circle. These are some of the possible reasons why the researcher became excessively angry, which will be discussed futher. What is important for the “Responding” part of the analysis is that this anger “blinded” the researcher and did not allow for considering other, alternative explanations of the colleague’s intervention. Unsurprisingly, when the researcher started reflecting upon the anger later, he felt shame and doubt.

Relating

The third stage is to make personal or theoretical understanding, which is relevant to that given situation. It involves making connections between issues experienced, personal knowledge, skills, and understanding. In this stage, one will be trying to make a connection between personal knowledge and the situations experienced. This way, it becomes possible to determine if a given theoretical framework did make sense when the event happened or not. It also involves questioning if the event that occurred did so in line with bodies of knowledge that one embraces. If there were some deviations from what was expected, Winstanley (2005) states that one should understand the extent of such deviations and forces that could have influenced it either directly or indirectly. Statistical Discrimination Theory may help at this stage to relate the event, which took place during our last meeting to realities in our society. According to Haan (2005, p. 68), this is a “theory of racial or gender inequality based on stereotypes.” The theory holds that sometimes the minority may find themselves disadvantaged because people tend to judge them based on what is believed to be their average behaviour. The theory may help in explaining the behaviour of the researcher. Given the fact that the colleague was a woman and from the minority race could have been part of the reason why the researcher reacted harshly to her late interjection of the logo that was developed.

Therefore, it is important to realise that the researcher’s reaction might also have been influenced by the minority status of the colleague. The colleague was the only African-American person in the meeting, and this, being combined with the fact that she was mostly passive during the meetings, which had taken place prior to the discussed one, strengthened the unconscious perception of the researcher towards her; the researcher viewed her as an outsider to a certain extent.

In addition, the researcher’s opinion about the colleague was certainly affected by the fact that the colleague was African-American, but made a statement, which would have appeared more appropriate for the researcher if it had been offered by an Arab. The fact that no one of the present Arabs found the logotype offensive probably strengthened that intuitive opinion of the researcher and made him even more certain that the colleague expressed slight towards the members of the committee. This understanding allowed for the instant development of a strong fit of anger (Hadreas 2016).

Thus, it is possible to conclude that the researcher, in fact, did not make any significant attempt to assess the statement that the colleague offered; instead, this statement was judged as some type of a breach from an external force, a breach that was aimed at disrupting the flow of the meeting. The colleague was viewed as an outsider rather than as a member of the team, and the reaction of the researcher was rather defensive, which is why it contained so much anger and aggression in it.

It is also worth pointing out that it may be possible to understand the researcher’s anger from a number of points of view. Phenomenologically, it was found out that the researcher might have been influenced by the minority status of the colleague. However, there might have been a number of reasons for that, the interpretations of which may be uncovered by using the principles of hermeneutics, according to which it is possible to create interpretations so long as they do not contradict the facts of a text (or, in this case, not a text, but a situation); it is best if they are supported by the following parts of a text (Seebohm 2007).

For instance, perhaps the researcher shared a certain part of the prejudice that is often felt towards the representatives of the minorities. Did he think that it was not her call to reject the logotype that had been created by the effort of the whole committee? Or, perhaps, the situation was the opposite: it is possible that the researcher thought that due to her minority status, the African American woman should have been more active, should have acted sooner than she did. On the other hand, a possible interpretation is that the minority status of the colleague did not influence the researcher’s opinion significantly. None of these interpretations contradict the given facts. In any case, it is apparent that the colleague was viewed as a person who did not do what she should. This may also have been a reason for the researcher’s anger.

Reasoning

In this stage, the focus is to give a detailed explanation of a given issue or situation using possible justifications. This should be done in a systematic manner. It may start by identifying significant factors in the event that took place. It might be needed to state how one factor led to the next factor and how subsequent factors were affected by forces that occurred previously. On this basis, one can justify why the final outcome came out in the manner in which it did. One can then look at relevant theories that may help explain why a given event would take a specified pattern based on specific factors. Sometimes, using theoretical models makes it possible to explain phenomena, especially if they follow the rules set by that particular theoretical model.

One can also base their reasoning on past experiences. The event may occur in a similar pattern to what happened in the past. This way, one may conclude, based on experience, that if a given set of factors interact in a given manner, then the final outcome is likely to follow a given pattern. At this stage, Kuchinke (2007) argues that the reason provided must be justified either based on existing bodies of knowledge, relevant theories, or experiences of the past events. The reaction of the researcher can be reasoned using Conditioned Reflex Theory. Kuchinke (2007, p. 42) defies this theory as “a learning process in which an innate response to a potent stimulus comes to be elicited in response to a previously neutral stimulus.” It occurs when one (or any living organism) has learnt to associate a given stimulus to a given issue. It is, therefore, possible that the researcher associated the action of the colleague to a specific issue that made the researcher react in the manner he did.

When we started the meeting to come up with an appropriate logo, our colleague did not get actively involved. This statement indicates that the researcher had associated the colleague with the lack of teamwork in this group. To the researcher, the colleague was not interested in making any effort to contribute to the success of the team. In fact, all members came up with various suggestions except her. When it came to critical analysis of each of the proposed logos, she did not get actively involved, preferring to go with the majority. The researcher’s reaction came almost by reflex, to criticise the colleague for her lack of team spirit and sincerity in her actions, and, as was stated above, viewing her as an outsider to a certain extent. The researcher did not take time evaluate the colleague’s idea in an unbiased and objective way. Jasper (2003) warns that lack of objectivity may sometimes lead to disagreements because one will not reason based on facts, but on established perception. At stages when team members gave their reason why they supported or rejected a given design, the researcher’s colleague remained silent. When the team had come up with a final logo at last, hers was the only dissenting voice.

Having been brought up in an ex-communist country where discrimination was not tolerated, it is possible that the researcher genuinely felt that the argument was not important because all races and religions should be treated as equal. In addition, it is possible to mention the Hofstede cultural dimensions theory; according to it, the more collectivist approaches are characteristic of the communist cultures (Taras, Kirkman, & Steel 2010). It might be stated that the researcher did not even wish to account for the existence of various races and cultures, simply because the differences are not that important, for all the peoples are humans in any case.

The researcher still has this belief, but the fact that other individuals might not share this conviction missed the researcher’s attention. However, it appeared absurd to the researcher that for the sake of one race or religion, the logotype of the conference should be changed, and that the logotype, which seems more “un-Arabic” should not be utilised. At first, it appeared unfair and unjust that the other races that would be present in the meeting were perhaps ignored by the colleague; the perceived injustice of the colleague’s intervention was perhaps another factor that strengthened the researcher’s feeling of anger (Hadreas 2016). However, it is now clear that this thought was incorrect because if the races and cultures are to be treated as equal, then there should not be elements which could be interpreted as offensive by any of them.

And still, this perception of the researcher, being combined with the view of the colleague as an outsider to a certain extent, was also a factor that influenced the researcher’s reaction to the colleague’s statement. It can easily be seen now that the researcher’s angry reaction was a result of his own beliefs and perceptions rather than a consequence of a clear consideration of what the colleague said.

As for the possibility that was uncovered via the hermeneutical means before (Seebohm 2007), that the researcher was also influenced by the colleague’s minority status, it is worth noting this interpretation might also require investigation. It was stressed that the researcher comes from a Communist country, where it is believed that one’s racial status should not matter in any way. However, there still might exist the threat of an unconscious gender bias. The bias, however, might be of both “types”: either that it was not the colleague’s place to comment on the logotype, or that she should have commented on it earlier because women need to be active. Interestingly, there might have existed some combination of both types of this bias, for one’s thoughts and views are not always completely consistent with one another (Jasper 2003). Therefore, it may be beneficial for the researcher to pay some additional attention to his perceptions of gender roles in the future.

Reconstructing

The final stage is the reconstruction process. At this stage, one is expected to draw conclusions and develop future action plans that would help address future events in a better manner. According to Brockbank and McGill (2007), one needs to have a deep understanding of a given situation or issue that occurred. Then he or she should reframe the entire experience based on personal knowledge to reconstruct future practice.

All in all, it is possible to state that a number of conclusions pertaining to the researcher’s reactions were made. The researcher reacted aggressively because he viewed the colleague as an outsider, which was caused by her passivity during the preceding meetings; and, possibly, by her racial origin (which was different from the origin of those she was trying to speak for); and, rather likely, by her minority status. In addition, the researcher, simultaneously (and, it appears now, somewhat inconsistently) not considering the race of an individual to be important, was unpleasantly surprised by the fact that someone attempted to oppose using a logotype which seemed “un-Arabic” to them. There is also the possibility that the researcher was unconsciously influenced by the gender of the colleague, believing that due to her gender status, she should have acted in a different way–either expressed her comment sooner or not expressed it at all. Having been tired due to being overwhelmed by work, the researcher reacted angrily and defensively, but the defence was rather aggressive.

Thus, in order to avoid such unpleasant situations in the future, the researcher should take into account a number of items. First, it is of the essence to be careful and not to view any members of a team as outsiders, even if they have been passive so far, or if they belong to a different group, for instance, to a different ethnic group. Second, it is important to take into account that, while the researcher believes that the racial differences are not important, other people may not think so, and may indeed become offended by certain phenomena; so, the researcher should become more sensitive to the racial and ethnic issues while retaining his beliefs about racial equality.

Third, it is important that the researcher pays additional attention to his perceptions of gender roles; it should be advised that one avoids gender bias, whether one unconsciously believes that women should behave in a bolder or a more reserved way due to their gender; in fact, the absence of gender bias means that one should not believe that gender requires someone to act in a certain way (Malpas & Gander 2015). Finally, the researcher ought to learn to better control his anger and not yield to the urge to react aggressively even when he is overwhelmed by work and tired due to certain difficulties with his teenage children and similar aspects of his personal life. It is important to realise that anger is often a reaction to an injustice (Hadreas 2016), and it should always be carefully considered whether any injustice has indeed been done. These points might be helpful for the researcher should similar situations take place in the future.

Conclusion

Experience, skills, and knowledge have been and still are very important characteristics that a person should have to achieve success in various fields of practice. However, they can negatively affect one’s ability to learn new concepts from events that take place in the world. Phenomenological attitude strongly rejects the use of one’s experiences and knowledge as the only source for predicting causes and outcomes of various events. Such predispositions often harm one’s ability to learn. Every phenomenon has its unique characteristics, and when it is looked at objectively with new eyes, new knowledge and skills can be developed by the one who looks. Knowledge keeps on changing, and the only way of managing change is to be ready to face every event as a potential area of learning. An individual should be able to criticise personal knowledge and skills based on the new challenges faced in life. As seen in the paper, there is no universal solution for a given set of problems. For every issue, there is often some uniqueness that will need modification of the solution used in the past in order to come up with an optimal way of addressing it.

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Appendix

Brief Description of the Experience

‘Thinking without Borders’ was a major conference that was to be hosted by the College in March 2014. The organising committee, which was comprised of a number of students and teaching staff, played a major role in ensuring that this conference went on as was expected. I was a member of this important committee. In one of the first meetings held by the committee, the task was to come up with an appropriate logo for the conference. This was an urgent task because the logo was to be designed earlier, but the committee had not been constituted. After a period of brainstorming, we agreed on a picture of a stretched arm holding earth in the palm. We were temporarily happy for the creativity of this logo given the limited time that was available, until a female voice was heard suggesting a radical change of the design to give it an Arabic taste.

According to my colleague, it was necessary to come up with a logo that would be more appealing to the Arabic audience, who would be the majority of the attendants of the conference. Everyone was shocked, and in unison we asked why the colleague developed such a feeling. My colleague responded that the attendants would be more offended seeing a sleeve of a western shirt instead of Arabic Thob, a dress code considered official in Qatar. I got frustrated listening to such a ridiculous argument and told her that it lacks basis in our modern society where we live in a global village.

Important Observations

What I observed about the experience

The experience I had in this meeting was frustrating and annoying at the same time. The process of coming up with an appropriate logo took over 2 months. The committee was under pressure to design the final version so that it could be sent for approval. We did come up with an agreed final version that was satisfactory to all the members except one. Her simple statement questioning the relevance of the logo based on the audience expected threw us back to the drawing board. What was more frustrating was that this member had been inactive for the last two months and never made any meaningful contribution in our debates. My colleague did not even criticise or commend some of the initial designs. Most of the members of the committee were of Arab origin, and they were not bothered about the design. They did not consider it offensive in any way. That is why I considered this situation that the colleague put us in after two months of struggle very frustrating.

What I observed about my own behaviour and feelings

The situation enabled me to make some very important observations about myself. One thing that I noticed is that I hate insincerity with passion. My colleague was being insincere to the entire group. If indeed she was concerned with the issue of coming up with a logo that has some sense of Arabic inclination, she should have stated that early enough when we started the meeting. Several logos that we had rejected or modified had this element. However, my colleague remained inactive throughout this daunting process. Another observation I made was that I strongly detest discrimination of whichever form, whether it is directed towards a majority or minority. Citizens of Qatar would want to be treated fairly in any part of the world, without considering their socio-cultural practices inferior to others. It is, therefore, discriminatory to reject a logo simply because the sleeve shows that it originated from the West. That, to me, was having a mind that is closed and unable to reason with. Finally, I also noticed that when I am not happy about something, I often make myself clear so that we can find a solution instead of ignoring the issue.

Observation of others about this experience

After the end of the meeting, I was able to talk to two of the participants and they were both keen on sharing with me what happened in the meeting we had that day. The first committee member told me that I should find kind words when it comes to correcting colleagues who happen to come up with ideas that seem to be more destructive than being constructive. However, she noted that the approach taken by the colleague seemed to be specifically meant to rubbish the efforts of the committee members and waste more time. A second committee member told me that he did everything to avoid talking to her rudely because she was absolutely insincere in her statement and also looked discriminative against the minority.

What others observed about me

I was approached by some committee members who had different opinions about me based on how I behaved during the incident that had taken place in that meeting. The first person who approached me was the vice chair. This colleague literally thanked me and told me that the openness I had in expressing my views was good. The colleague was also displeased with the incident. The second was a colleague who believed that indeed what the colleague had done was wrong, but my reaction was equally wrong. The colleague insisted that I should know how to manage my anger. The third person told me that I was good at defending the weak and the minority.

What I Have Learned From This Experience

This experience made me learn a number of issues, especially as an expatriate working in a foreign country. The first area of learning was that working as a team requires commitment and sincerity among all the members. The moment one of the team members is not committed to the success of the group, it is easy for the entire group to fail in meeting its objectives. The second issue learnt was that it is important to consider diversity as strength instead of making it an issue that divided us. Finally, I also learnt that we should always be sensitive to the varying views of others and if possible be as tolerant as can be, even in cases where one is seen to embrace extreme views.

How this learning relates to appropriate theories or concepts I have read

The learning from the experience relates to various theories and concepts that could have helped in avoiding this scenario if they had been employed. Tuckman’s Teamwork Theory is one of the most appropriate theories that are very relevant to this experience. This theory explains how teams should be formed and run to ensure that they achieve their set objectives (Willis 1999). One of the issues emphasised in this theory is the need to ensure that every team member participates in coming up with ideas, products, or whichever activity the team is engaged in. They should feel that they own every decision that is made. The colleague in the committee failed to do this, something that can be associated with her last minute rejection of the proposed logo. Another important concept that would be relevant in this case is Transformational Leadership. This concept emphasises on the need for a leader to motivate his or her team members at all times to ensure that they are active and working towards the same goal. The chairman of this committee failed to ensure that every team member is active.

Specific behaviours I would like to change

Based on my personal observations and some of the comments from team members, I have realised that I need to manage my anger. I need to be less impulsive when addressing issues that I consider destructive to my group or me. I should also start engaging people from other cultures to avoid misinterpretations of some of the concepts.

How I will change these behaviours

I know that anger can be counter-productive in an organisational setting, especially in cases where people must work as a team to achieve a common goal, hence it should be combated. I intend to change these behaviours by engaging people from different social backgrounds so that I may have a better understanding of different cultural practices. I will also need my friends to help me out with anger management.

Addressing an Anger Issue with Phenomenological Method
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