In the Flow with Healing Waters
Why do we tell stories to other people?
Comedians tell stories for a living to make us laugh. Authors write stories for us to read. In caveman days, pictures were drawn to tell stories. They’ve been around for a long time! We spend most of our days telling stories. We tell stories to connect with others, to have conversations, to tell our side of a story, to have someone feel sorry for us, to get attention, to share an opinion, or perhaps we are gossiping.
Several years ago, I went to a leadership program. During that program, we did many experiential exercises and one of them stands out to me. Our instructions were to sit with one person and tell them a story about a time that we had conflict with someone and felt that the other person wronged you. So I shared my story with my partner and she felt really sorry for me and sympathized with me with what I had gone through. My partner shared her story with me and I sympathized with her. Then, instructions were given for the next part of the exercise. We were told to tell the same story to our partner, but, this time, tell ALL the details, including what your part was in the situation and things you said or did to cause reactions from the other party. Yes, tell everything! Let me tell you, my story was different when I got real and told the whole story!
What I learned from that experience was this. My partner and I didn’t feel sorry for each other when we told the truth about our part in the conflict. The first stories we told to each other were dramatic and exciting because some of the facts were left out. When we tell a story, whether you are conscious of it or not, we want to look like the blooming rose and make the other person look like the poison ivy.
I paused and reflected on how I felt when I didn’t share everything the first time. It was rewarding to tell the dramatic and embellished version. I got attention, got to tell my side of the story without interruption and I got to feel like the victim. As the program continued, more exercises were done that gave me the awareness of how I was showing up for others. Am I drama based, hair on fire, running from one thing to the next, or am I calm, communicative and authentic? I get to choose what I want and how I show up.
When you’re telling others a story, what is your objective? If you’re telling about an event when someone did you wrong, how long ago did it happen? Is it time to stop talking about it? Why does it still matter? What will it take to move forward from it? Why do you keep talking about it? Do you like it when people view you as the victim?
Has this ever happened to you? You and a friend get in an argument and you’re upset. You call another friend to tell them what happened to tell your side of the story. After that conversation, you call a family member to tell them. Then you share the story with a co-worker. Each time you share the story, you embellish a little more, you’re getting sympathy which is like a reward, so you keep doing it. Eventually, people will get tired of hearing your story, you won’t get the sympathy, so maybe you’ll move on from that story, until another one comes along.
Now imagine if you have the same scenario, but you look at your part in it. Maybe you wouldn’t be proud of what you did, so you decide to not share it with anyone. That may prompt you to go to the source that you’re having the disagreement with and reconcile. Conflict with others will happen. Having a conversation with the person you are in conflict with is the only way for resolution. A friend, co-worker or family member that is not involved in the conflict cannot solve the conflict.
I’m not saying that you have to be serious in every story you tell. If you know me, I love to tell stories and if I’m telling a silly story, I will embellish to make something funnier. I will still slip into telling a story and look for the sympathy card, but it’s less. It feels better to take ownership of my actions and to be authentic.
Gain the awareness and start practicing telling all the details of a story vs skipping over the parts where you weren’t your best self.
Storytelling in the flow,