Try to find a person who doesn’t at times tell himself or herself a false story based on comments that others make. The problem is not that we do this, but that we often don’t recognize it, and we allow that story to drive a wedge in our relationships.
It’s called being human. We are storytellers.
Stories Provide Meaning
Nothing in this world carries meaning independent of the story we tell about what it means. Stories are how we put things in context and give meaning to our experiences. This is human nature; the need to create meaning in life — whether that meaning is “positive” or “negative” — is what drives us.
The Stories We Tell Ourselves
Each of us has stories we tell ourselves about who we are and how people feel about us. Some of these stories are ingrained in us from the earliest days of our lives. They might be based on things people told us, or on the meaning we gave an event that happened in our formative years.
These stories can be difficult to erase. And once we have a story about ourselves, we tend to look for the facts to support it. We don’t even have to look; the supporting facts seem to find us.
You see what you seek.
Stories Are Not Facts
Facts are facts. What someone said is what he said. What someone did is what she did. What turns facts into a story is motive and meaning (among other things, but this isn’t an article about the art of storytelling).
In crafting stories, we engage in a process of selection about what facts and episodes are relevant. This is a necessary element of story creation.
Any given set of facts can yield numerous stories, depending on the lens through which you view the facts. And the lens through which we view the facts related to our experience is typically the false stories that are ingrained in us.
How Our Stories Separate Us
Much of what we consider “miscommunication” is a result of how we interpret what others say and do through the filter of our made up stories. We say one thing, but the recipient hears something else. We project motivations onto others, concluding things about their behavior that they never even considered.
When we don’t recognize that we are making up stories, and when we allow those stories to drive a wedge in our relationships, we separate from others.
This is how we separate from ourselves, too.
It creates a crack, which grows larger over time.
Suddenly, you’ve put the Grand Canyon between yourself and someone you loved. All because of the stories you made up.
A Simple Life Hack to Save Relationships
Brené Brown shares a great 5-word life hack to help us prevent miscommunications and other misunderstandings.
The story I’m making up …
Brown explains that in using these 5 words,
Basically, you’re telling the other person your reading of the situation — and simultaneously admitting that you know it can’t be 100% accurate.
She explains that when we use “the story I’m making up” we convey
I want you to see me and understand me and hear me, and knowing what you really mean is more important to me than being right or self-protecting.
The 5-word hack is a way to check the narrative that’s running through your head and raise what you’re feeling others involved, without accusing them of an intent they didn’t have. It brings everyone to a neutral field and opens the door for more open and vulnerable conversation.
What’s Your Story?
What stories are you making up? Are you aware of them? Have you used this frame to bring your made up stories to others? Share your experience in the comments.