Leading Blog


Taking Control of the Story: Four Helpful Questions to Ask

When emotions run high we tend to throw everything we know out the window. Staying in dialogue and in control of the stories we create about the events in our life isn’t always easy, but it is possible.

It begins by taking control of and responsibility for the emotions you have created for yourself. As the authors state in Crucial Conversations, “Emotions don’t settle on you like a fog. Others don’t make you mad. You make you mad.” With that understanding you can decide to control them or be controlled by them.

When you experience something, there are the facts of the situation and then there is your story about it; your conclusions, your interpretations, your judgments, and your spin on it. The most common trap is to assume that our emotions are the only valid response. Consequently, we charge ahead justified that our story is accurate and we make no attempt to change or even question it. It’s our stories that can get us into trouble and cause us to behave in ways that we know we shouldn’t.

Again in Crucial Conversations they stress that we need to separate stories from facts. “When you generate stories in the blink of an eye, you can get so caught up in the moment that you begin to believe your stories are facts. They feel like facts. You confuse subjective conclusions with steel-hard data points …. ‘He’s a male chauvinist pig’ is not a fact. It’s the story Maria created to give meaning to the facts. The facts could mean just about anything.” We create stories to justify our behavior.

They suggest we ask ourselves four helpful questions to get ourselves into constructive dialogue:

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?

We must always remember that there are more stories than the one we have created. “As we tell the rest of the story, we free ourselves from the poisoning effects of unhealthy emotions. Best of all, as we regain control and move back to dialogue, we become masters of our own emotions rather than hostages.” And we free ourselves from unnecessary regret.

Crucial Conversations is an indispensable guide to learning to handle your most difficult conversations and improve the quality of your life and those you lead. Make sure everyone on your team has one.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 03:19 PM
| Comments (0) | This post is about Communication



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