What stories are you telling yourself about the people or situations you are facing today?
Whether we recognize it or not, all of us have a creative writer hard at work in our heads. Numerous times a day, we make assumptions or judgments about the “why” of someone’s behavior. We fill in the blanks regarding a person’s intent in ways that are consistent with the plot line echoing in our head. “See, she is always trying to make my life difficult” . . . “What is he trying to pull by leaving us out of the conversation?” . . . “They clearly don’t have a good grasp of the situation.” What’s more, based on the stories we tell ourselves, we may then act in ways that create a self-fulfilling prophesy. If I make decisions based on the assumption “he is trying to pull something,” chances are my behaviors are only adding to the storyline in “his” head.
So how do you change the story?
Replace the villain with a hero in your mind. What if someone you trusted or respected displayed the same behavior? Would you automatically assume the worst, or would you stop and think about a host of scenarios that might be driving their actions? Chances are, you could think of a range of reasons — other than ill intent — why the “hero” behaved as they did. Hmmm . . . is it possible one of those reasons was also driving the “villain’s” actions? Taking even a few moments to “change the characters” in your mind can impact how you respond.
Cultivate curiosity. Another option for changing the story is to ask the other person to set the scene. “Help me understand . . .” is a great way to gain new perspective. Unlike “why did you do that?” seeking to understand doesn’t put people on the defensive. It doesn’t point fingers. It merely asks for their assistance in gaining clarity. And adding even a few additional details to the picture unfolding in your head can change your opinion about the best course of action.
Invest in editing. Good editors not only change or remove details that weaken the overall story, they also serve to confirm the parts that contribute to a stronger conclusion. Editors are not immersed in creating the story, and thus they don’t approach the situation with pre-conceived expectations. An objective eye can either support your storyline or poke holes in it. Either way, you end up greater confidence in the result. Find an objective “editor” to give you feedback, especially when you feel certain characters getting under your skin.
The stories a leader tells have ripples of impact. The first draft of a story is rarely the best.