Five Ways to Answer Negative Stories
Negative stories produce emotions that close your mind and harm your relationships.
Emotions don’t know the difference between true stories or fiction. Video games, movies, and novels produce strong emotional responses. Horror movies produce real fear, even though there’s no real danger.
Years ago, my email signature file was an Edward De Bono quote, “Those who think they know, don’t.” A director where I worked asked me a question via email. My signature file infuriated him. He told himself the story that I put it there for him.
The fantasies you make up about the behavior of others produce real feelings.
He called me in and chewed me out. I tried to explain that the quote was on all my emails. We went around the conversation three times before he was able to let it go, even a little.
Once you tell yourself an emotion-producing story, you cling to that emotion and validate the story, even if it’s a fiction.
You not them:
The stories you tell yourself about others are about you. You might blame others for your negative feelings, but, in the end, those feelings are yours.
The story you tell and the emotion it causes may be a complete fiction.
5 ways to answer negative stories you tell yourself:
- Courageously tell your stories, rather than impose your judgments. “I saw what Bill did and told myself he was being arrogant and selfish.”
- Open your heart to hear another’s story, even when you have already made up your mind. Justify their story, rather than yours.
- Explore stories when solving conflict. “What stories are we telling ourselves about …?”
- Choose positive stories first. Assume the best about others.
- Seek clarification when troubled.
How might leaders deal with the emotions that are attached to fictitious stories we tell ourselves?
Great post! My wife makes fun of me for my inventive ways of justifying the actions or comments of others towards me.
Thanks Glen. You aren’t making up a story about your wife, are you? 🙂
Don’t need to! She only says nice things to me! It’s like cutting someone off on the freeway. Once you have done it accidentally yourself, it’s easy to assume when people do it to you that it’s just accidental, and to give them grace rather than assuming something bad.
Well Said … the story might be fictitious but the emotions are real. I think we should use this ability to our advantage by changing the story to something that brings in positive emotions. The bigger question is – Have we tuned our minds enough to see the glass half full and not otherwise? 🙂
Thanks Tej. I’ve been thinking about the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves. I think a glass-half-full story about ourselves is particularly sad.
I love this message so much. The number one reason we aren’t emotional as a country (USA) about climate change is that our scientific community does not appreciate the emotional and internally altering power of great storytelling.
I especially loved how my own emotions sored as you unfolded your own personal story, and I was reminded that you could have made the whole thing up but it would still be a powerful tool for change. Thanks for sharing your vulnerability and trust in us.
Thanks James. It’s great that the power of story seems to be catching on in some circles.
Interesting you bring up the scientific community. Perhaps the scientists, engineers, and technical people in the world miss the power of story telling because of a natural interest in “the facts.”
To some, this may seem a bit ‘late’ to be up responding to a blog. But (Leadership-Freak), “ain’t just another pretty-blog.” Besides, I’m at work & there’s nothing to do!!!
This blog is so helpful and revealing in a myriad of ways. Under, YOU NOT THEM, you closed by saying; “in the end, those feelings are yours.” This may sound a bit ‘deep’, “but I feel ‘Liberated’ having read those two sentences. If we allow emotions and feelings to dictate our perceptions we will never really be in touch with true reality. When I was a District Representative with the United Steelworkers of America, I would routinely remind my staff before meetings, (especially those with the potential to be Emotionally Charged), to do their best to remain emotionally neutral even so far as to be mindful of our physical cue’s such as; facial expression, a closed demeanor, fidgeting inattentively.
“Once you tell yourself an ‘Emotion-Producing story’,
you cling to that emotion and validate the story,
even if it’s fiction.”
Reading this Dan lead me to think of (The Habitual LIAR). We all know that individual who embellishes every story, (true, or not), who’s reputation for honesty is questionable at best. I always find their stories, ‘interesting’ as they’re filled with drama and energy. But the stories are entertaining at best. It is my experience that when someone must continually resort to “emotionally packed stories” to get their point across their intentions are rarely honorable. Usually there’s a hidden agenda behind the (theatrics). Smoke and mirrors if you will in order to manipulate perception.
I’ve said it 100 times and I’ll say it again; “Truth and Perception are not the same thing. Beware of those who incessantly attempt to coheres, brain wash, or otherwise convince you to believe anything, or feel a certain way you are not 100% comfortable with.” THINK FOR YOUSELF,,,
OR SOMEONE ELSE WILL…
“Merry Ho Ho to you,Dale and the family from Debb & I Dan!”
This is fascinating stuff – it rings true. But can you change a story once it is out there? I’m thinking of your interaction and how you went around and around explaining about the quote on your email. Could you have used his story somehow to change his opinion? Is there a way to re-interpret a story with someone? I would love some good strategies for that…
I was in a conversation with my fiance and the subject was on our sons name being miss spelled on his presents for Christmas. When my son Damon was born my mother made a comment about his name being like the name of a “demon” like the movie the Omen. After listening to her i found that after child birth, a comment like that is harmfull can cause a negitive attatched emotion. I came to a solution and told her I will nicely talk to my mother and let her know its Damon not Damian. But thinking highly of my mom i feel that she honestly has made a mistake with his name. So my question is, How can i dissconect the negitive emotion. I would really appreciate the feed back. Thank you