I just finished Brene’ Brown’s Rising Strong. In the book, she encourages her readers to think about “the story I’m making up” and explore other perspectives. What does she mean by that?
Read the story about the total disconnect she had with her husband while taking a swim on a long-awaited family summer vacation. I assure you, you will have an “ah-ha” moment before the story is through.
Acknowledging “the story I’m making up” can be a real communication life-saver. How has “the story” manifested for me? Here are a few examples:
Scenario #1: A friend and I took a road trip together. We’ve known each other for a long time and have a very sarcastic repertoire. Basically, we flip each other sh&! all the time. The day after our road trip I saw a meme on Facebook that said “The definition of bestie: someone who opens their mouth just to insult you.” The story I made up was, “How funny is this? This is the perfect description of our super-fun road trip yesterday. My friend will think this is so funny. I have to send it to her right now!” Well, the story my friend made up when she saw the iMessage two weeks later was “Cindy must hate me and think I am a horrible friend.” It took her a full week to get the nerve up to send me an e-mail letting me know that she would try to be a better friend. Same message, two completely different stories. Had my friend called me and said: “the story I’m making up is that you think I’m a mean friend” could have been easily explained away.
Scenario #2: A couple of years ago a client poured her heart out to me in a text message. She displayed a lot of vulnerability and raw emotion. The text never came through to my phone. However, at about the same time I was in Costco and texted my client asking if she wanted me to pick up some of her favorite pencils. Unfortunately, my response to her vulnerable text was “I’m in Costco, want me to grab some pencils?” She never replied to my text. The story she made up was “Cindy is ignoring my painful text because I crossed the line of professional boundaries. I wonder how this is going to change our relationship.” My story was “Well, I guess she doesn’t need any pencils.” Same texting miscommunication, two completely different stories. Had my client called and asked about my strange response to her text, she would have saved herself a week of concern about our potentially-damaged relationship.
Scenario #3: I managed the Northwest Harvest food drive for my department when I worked at Macy’s. I was passionate about giving back to the community and loved this part of my job. One year it looked like we were going to fall a little short of our goal. I was discussing the situation with one of the senior managers and he said: “just put me down for whatever we are short.” I felt he had already given plenty so my response was “You’ve already given so much, why don’t you let someone else pick up the slack?” To that, he curtly responded “Don’t tell me what to do with my money. If I want to give more, I will give more.” Because I very much respected this person, I was crushed. My story was “I failed to rally the troops enough and this very generous person is having to pick up the pieces as a result of my failure.” His story was “We’re close, I’m okay giving a little more. Why is she questioning how much I want to give?” If I’d had my wits about me I could have simply said “Wow. I didn’t expect that strong of a response. Where is that coming from?”
Can you see similarities to your experiences in these stories? What’s your story? What’s their story? What story can you create together with thoughtful and vulnerable conversations?
Cindy Jobs, COC, ACC
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Professional Resource Member
Level I Certificates earned in Chronic Disorganization; ADD; Client Administration; Time Management; Mental Health; and Hoarding.
Level II Specialist Certificates earned in Chronic Disorganization and ADHD.