Ever notice the stories you create when you’re dealing with an emotionally charged issue? That was me this weekend. Before I knew it, my imagination had woven a story that could rival a bestselling novel. Like any great story, mine had a hero (me!) and a villain (the other person, naturally!). The drama and intrigue totally sucked me in. 

 

The trouble is, almost none of my story turned out to be true, so I wasted a perfectly nice weekend consumed with anger, resentment and frustration.

 

How do you know it’s a story? It’s based on what you imagine is the truth versus what you’ve validated to be true. Your particular interpretation- your story– is fueled by your life experiences, assumptions and beliefs.

 

The next time you find yourself lost in a story of your own making, try this instead:

 

First, open up a doc and reflect on these four questions. Then write down your responses as if you’re saying them to the other person involved.

 

#1 Your observation 

What are the objective facts of the situation, ie, the details that anyone witnessing it would also observe? For instance, “you canceled our last two 1:1s at the last minute.”

WHY IT WORKS: It pulls you out of the drama of your story, lowers your stress level and shifts you back into rational thought.

 

#2 Your interpretation/feelings 

What is the story you’ve made up around the situation? “The story I’ve created is that you don’t respect my time and that you think it’s a waste of time to meet with me.”

WHY IT WORKS: It reinforces that how you’re feeling is based on a story– not fact– and creates space for alternative interpretations. It also prevents you from sounding accusatory, which can trigger the other person’s style under stress.

 

#3 What you need 

What do you need instead of what you’re experiencing? “As co-founders, I need us to commit to our time together so we stay aligned.”

WHY IT WORKS: It forces you to clarify what you *really* want as an outcome versus what you want in the moment (which is usually to win). 

 

#4 Your request 

Ask the other person to commit to your desired outcome. “Can we be more dedicated to our 1:1 time together?”

WHY IT WORKS: It helps you evaluate a realistic “ask” and makes a resolution more possible.


Next, when you’re no longer stressed, let the other person know that you’d like to have a conversation. Then let your prep work guide you. Remember: seek to understand the other person’s point of view as much as you seek to be understood.