Reading People Through the Stories They Tell

If you were asked about a communication that caught your attention, was easy to remember and inspired you to action, what would come to mind? It’s unlikely that you thought of a spreadsheet or even a PowerPoint presentation. It is likely that whatever you remembered had a strong story component. Stories are the way that human beings take the building blocks of fact and create a structure that has both meaning and momentum. We tell stories as naturally as we speak and we listen to them with heightened perception. We are good at evaluating the truth inside the story 분당스웨디시.

Start small. What do you talk about when you’re making small talk? Fans tell stories. You might be a fan of a sports team, a hobby or a reality t.v. show. Any of these interests will inspire you to tell stories about who is doing what to whom and what results different people are getting and who is winning or losing. You might be telling stories about what people want or about who people want to fight. You might be telling stories that consistently end triumphantly or badly. As you hear the consistency along with the stories, you can begin to wonder what patterns of cause-and-effect you are learning as you talk and listen.

It’s not so much that the stories you tell say a lot about you (although they do). It’s more that the stories you tell are the stories that you are giving your attention: when you tell stories about your team, your neighbour, or your favourite show, you are repeating a pattern until you learn it. You can learn that third time’s the charm, that the good die young, or that power always corrupts: you can learn it from telling stories from different parts of your life about different people who all share a common message or pattern.

Whatever you are saying about the things that interest you, you are probably also saying about your work life. Whether you believe people are buddies who get you through the tough times or adversaries who are bound to slow you down, you believe it in all your stories. If your stories are about turning adversity into victories, then you will see the next cancelled project or economic downturn quite differently than if your stories are about how small problems snowball into bigger ones.

Since most motivation is unconscious, we are better at justifying our actions than we are at predicting them. Listening to our stories gives us better clues about what it is we are likely to choose, and how we are likely to respond to stress or conflict. If you tell stories where people get beat up and then bounce back, you will find that you have more resilience when you are facing difficult times. This is true whether you spontaneously tell stories, or you just give them your attention when you encounter them in media or in other people.

Of course, listening to other people’s stories gives you the same kind of window into their motivation. Have you encountered people in your work life who consistently turn small problems into bigger ones, people who seem doomed to repeat their mistakes? They probably tell a lot of stories characterized by a dramatic imbalance of power. Although the main characters in their stories struggle bravely, they are generally doomed unless they can fly under the radar of the powers that be. This does not mean the tellers will stay under the radar: it does mean that they will expect to be doomed whenever they become conspicuous.

There’s a song that asks “how can a loser ever win?” A loser who tells stories about losers is unlikely to change his luck. A loser who tells stories about winners is just at the bottom of an upswing, ready to make decisions that get better results. When you listen to the stories around you, you get better at predicting who will persist through difficulty, who will stir up conflict, and who will stick with a challenge long enough to break through to something better. Predicting these and other behaviours requires more than analysis of the facts: the same facts make some people and break others.

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