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Untold Stories

What story am I telling myself about a situation or grievance? We are great at telling stories to ourselves. I can write novels when I'm worried, feel threatened or feel out of control. I can spin myself up telling stories, especially when I don't share them with others. When I am telling myself stories, it is next to impossible for someone to be able to know my story unless I share it with them. If I don't tell them, it is easy for them to misinterpret my mood or attitude.

I talk to many couples who are telling themselves stories and not sharing them with the other. Often, I ask the question when one is looking perplexed, sad, or troubled, "What story are you telling yourself?" Generally, the first time I asked that question, the answer I hear is, "what story?" It is easy to not recognize that we are telling ourselves a story and acting as if the story we are telling is true.

If I am irritated about something with another and do not tell them, there is no way to calm my anxiety. They may assume something else is going on, and now we are not about to connect. The ‘assumption’ is the root of so many couple or work relationship issues.

It is easy not to recognize the story we tell ourselves because it is so natural to have conversations in our minds that we don't share. It's like telling a fish they're in water. Telling our story is a significant part of healthy communication. Telling makes our relationships rich and whole, understanding and connecting. I'm in trouble when I assume I know what another is thinking. When I ask, I am enlightened. If I think someone is upset or angry with me, I might tell myself that story and act as though my story is true. They could be feeling ill, troubled, or thinking about something they haven't shared with me that has nothing to do with me.

Check it out.

It deserves clarification. Otherwise, I'm acting or reacting and showing up in a mood or attitude that doesn't fit the script. Misreading or misinterpreting someone's mood or attitude is easy when I am not asking the question. I've seen emotional and physical distance because someone thinks they know what the other has going on in their mind. [Blind Spot]

This distance can happen in families or can occur in the professional world. It is essential, for healthy communication, that one is aware of the other's thinking. It's easy to overlook this critical part of communication. If it's not recognized, it will cause tremendous misunderstanding.

I was talking to a young man who needed help with his work team and his boss. There was a considerable amount of turmoil and frustration going on in their team. The young man was taking the boss's frustration and attitude out on himself, thinking the boss was upset with him because the project was not going well. (Notice what story he was telling himself)

This caused the young man to feel bad about his contribution to the team. The morale of the team was deteriorating. This experience went on with the young man for over a week when he contacted me, and we set up a meeting with his boss.

During the discussion, the boss indicated that he was upset with himself because the project was not going well. (Notice what story the boss was telling himself)

He did not realize that the young man and others on the team were feeling bad and blaming themselves because the project was off the rails. When the boss could tell the story he was telling himself, it quickly reduced the team's anxiety. The boss's story was, "I'm not a good boss, and the results prove it. I'm afraid this will reflect on my performance." Once they shared their stories, it brought understanding and productivity back to the team.

This situation is typical. It illustrates what happens when we attempt to read each other's minds and don't share what is going on with each other.

I love to ask these questions:

What are we not talking about that we need to be talking about?

What story are you telling yourself about this situation?

Look for the blind spots.

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Blind Spots in Relationships

What I don't know I don't know about myself

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