In the last blog post about the book, Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When the Stakes Are High, I explained what makes a conversation crucial and also highlighted the main two “styles under stress”.
Chapter 6 describes the narrative that we often inaccurately tell ourselves in heated moments; these “clever stories” drive our emotions and subsequent actions. Often, we don’t even realize we are creating these stories, as they happen so fast. There are a few different types of stories that occur:
- Victim stories – We create ourselves as innocent victims. We are the good guys and the other person is the bad guy. Everything that they do is evil. The tales that we tell make us look weak; sometimes we might even omit important details to paint ourselves as a martyr. We want others to see ourselves as completely innocent.
- Villain stories – These stories make the other person look like an evil villain. We create motives and ill intentions; any possibility of neutral or good intentions may be omitted. Labeling the other person with insulting names devalues the other as a complex person.
- Helpless stories – This third form of “clever story” is a method of framing our situation as one where we have no options left. Ultimately, it creates justification for our actions. We create excuses that free us of guilt or responsibility of negative consequences.
Why do we tell ourselves “clever stories”?
Because they let us “off the hook” and allow us to create psychological distance from the situation. Therefore, it’s important to be able to analyze the stories and return to pure facts. Here are some of the suggested questions and frame of mind that can help us tell the reshape the story more accurately:
- Am I pretending not to notice my role in the problem?
- Why would a reasonable, rational, and decent person do this?
- What do I really want?
- What would I do right now if I really wanted these results?