I want to talk about something that I am very passionate about. This is a thing that we all do, but we all do it terribly.
I am talking about storytelling. Specifically, the stories that we tell ourselves. It is important that we dig into this and the series of events that occur in our mind that shape our stories and experiences when we interact with others or something happens.
Anytime something happens there is a chain of events that occur. Here is a loose diagram and explanation of those events:
It can be broken down this way:
Situation: Something has occurred. You have seen, heard or experienced something. This is the catalyst for the chain of events. For example, your boss tells you to do something or your lover doesn’t return your text immediately.
Story: When something occurs, we quickly and unconsciously tell ourselves a story about the situation. Our stories come from our unconscious bias, the part of our mind that makes snap decisions and judgments quickly based off information stored in our mind. Past experiences also come into play here.
Emotional Response: Whatever story we have told ourselves will trigger an emotional response because on the type of story we told. This can range from positive feelings or negative feelings. We tend to consciously experience these first.
Behavior: Based off of our emotional response, we will demonstrate a behavior toward the situation. This could include saying or doing something, or not saying or doing something. We act out in some way or another.
Here’s the problem: Your story is wrong most of the time. Your story may have some facts in there, but you are limited to only the information in your head. You will naturally infer any information you are missing from your limited info.
What this means is that sometimes the emotional response and behavior that follow are inappropriate for the situation that has actually occurred.
This is why you need to check your story. While your emotions are always valid (because you are experiencing them), the cause of them is not. If you take the time to pause, think, act, you will a much easier time of dealing with situations and navigating through conflict and personal accountability.
How do you check your story? Easy! You just have to ask yourself a simple question: What information do I need?
Asking yourself that question will not only allow you to identify the information you are missing, but it also lets you identify with who you need to talk to to get the correct information.
Building out an updated story will cause you to change the emotional response to the situation and then change your behavior to something more appropriate.
What do you think happens if you don’t check your story? Human beings experience something called “confirmation bias”. This bias looks for information to validate our story and dismissed any contradicting information. This can turn stories into convictions, which are much harder to break than a story.
Use this worksheet below to write out what’s on your mind and to check your story..
For much more in-depth content around this, check out the book “Crucial Conversations”.