"........When Change is the Challenge."
Create a New Story"
Laurie Weiss, Ph.D.
Franklin, a manager in a professional consulting firm, was irritated when Nicole, another manager, told a staff person to drop his work and do hers instead. Franklin was inconvenienced, and wanted to be sure Nicole would not infringe on his work again. He needed to stay on good terms with Nicole and was unsure of how to confront her about the situation without alienating her.
When he started imagining what to say to her, Franklin could only imagine acting really angry. Since he knew that would lead to negative results, he felt paralyzed. I asked him what story he was telling himself about Nicole. "It's not a story, she is an uncooperative #%*$! She just isn't a team player." I asked why he thought Nicole was uncooperative. He told me "I'm certain she is just out to make herself look good."
He had no explanation for how he "knew" her motivation. I described how, in the absence of information, humans tend to make up explanations about whatever they observe in order to make themselves feel more comfortable and more in control. "If I know what is going on, then I can take appropriate action to protect myself and what is important to me" seems to be our motivation for making up our stories.
Making up stories is not, in itself, a problem. We all do it. The problem arises when we believe our stories are true, instead of recognizing them for what they are -- just stories.
I then encouraged Franklin to make up two more stories that might explain Nicole's behavior. The stories could be as wild or as realistic as he could imagine. His two stories were: 1. She is completely unaware of the effect she has on other people because nobody ever explained it to her, and 2. She was in a really tough situation the day she had pushed his work out of order, and had forgotten to apologize because she was so busy.
Franklin didn't believe either of these explanations, but when I asked him what he would say to her if each of those explanations were true, he thought of several different options. He decided to approach her as if she had been under pressure, and forgotten to apologize to him. When he finally had the conversation with Nicole, he was pleasantly surprised to discover how cooperative she was.
Coaching tip: Create new stories. When people learn to recognize that they are operating on unproven assumptions they feel freer to solve problems creatively.
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Jonathan B. Weiss, Ph.D. and Laurie Weiss, Ph.D. have
helped thousands of people make significant changes in their
lives. Working together at Empowerment Systems for 29 of
their 40 years of marriage, they maintain a coaching,
consulting, and psychotherapy practice in Littleton,
· Colorado · 80120
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"Committed to helping people use all of
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to create satisfying and fulfilling