There are three types of stories you’re going to have to learn to watch out for. You and I are masters at telling these.
- The Victim Story
You’ve just brought a new shirt for your friends’ birthday. They put it on and moments later it has a large stain down the middle. You’ve spent time, money and effort to find the best shirt and it doesn’t seem like your friend cares about any of it.
You feel outraged, offended, indignant.
Why? Because the story you’re telling yourself is a victim story.
Look at the victim you’ve made myself out to be. You tell yourself that kind of story and it justifies moving to silence or violence.
You move to violence with your friend, calling them names and saying they don’t care, and you don’t have to feel guilty about it because, after all, “I’m an innocent victim”.
The victim story isn’t enough. You need more to help yourself feel good about silence or violence because, for the most part, you and I believe we shouldn’t do those things. We know we shouldn’t withdraw. We know we should speak up. We shouldn’t move to violence to control and compel, but we do it anyway.
- The Villain Story
We need a second story to help us out. We need a villain story. “Not only am I an innocent victim, but look at my friend. They’re ungrateful, selfish, obnoxious.”
The degree to which you can paint your friend as evil, awful, and rotten is the degree to which you can feel justified in behaving rude back to them.
When we tell ourselves these kinds of stories, we create a certain emotion and a certain action as a consequence.
- The Helpless Story
Finally, we give up our responsibility for our reaction. “There’s nothing else I could do.”
Master Your Story
What if you could 1) notice when you told these kinds of stories, and 2) intervene and change them?
Pause for a moment and asked yourself, “What story am I telling myself that’s making me so mad? That they’ an ungrateful, obnoxious, rude friend.”
As soon as you tell that story, you will find yourself capable of crafting a different story. The story no longer becomes my rude obnoxious friend, but rather normal (friend) behaviour.
Would that change how you felt?
Notice that I’m NOT suggesting that you shouldn’t hold them accountable. We will hold them accountable.
After taking a breath we can begin dialogue and that situation might play out something like this:
“ (friend), did you notice that you got stains all over your brand-new shirt?”
Your friend looks down and starts to become frustrated that they’ve just ruined the shirt, they frantically take it off and try to get it clean.
The whole situation changes in that moment.
What was the real problem? Why were they getting stains all over their new shirt? Was it because they’re an evil rotten villain? Or was it because of an accident and they didn’t notice?
Should they learn to take care of their belongings better than they did? Absolutely. But did they need guilt and abuse? No.
If you learn to master your story—to notice what stories you’re telling yourself that create emotional responses, and then intervene and change those—you’ll gain the capacity to step up to crucial conversations that will affect results and relationships in every area of your life.