J.D. Meier's Blog

Software Engineering, Project Management, and Effectiveness

What's Their Story?

What's Their Story?

  • Comments 2

"What's their story?" ... With one cutting question, my manager exposed the fact a colleague had only one side of the story -- their own.

We make up stories every day either to explain our own actions or the actions of others.  What happens when our stories limit us or hurt our relationships?  For example, have you ever jumped to the wrong conclusion about somebody's actions and later regreted it?  I know I have.

What the experts do is they swap stories.  The trick is seperating fact from fiction.  First, they share the facts they know.  The more objective or verifiable the facts are, the better.  The facts help build common ground.  Next, they share their interpretation of those facts.  This is their story.  Then they ask the other person for their version of the story.

It's a simple technique, but I'm finding swapping stories is very revealing.  Sometimes I'm surprised by my own interpretation of the facts.  Other times, I'm surprised by another person's interpretation of the facts.  Either way, I consistently find that a thoughtful response is better than an emotional reaction.

The next time you find you just don't get somebody's behavior, before jumping to negative conclusions, ask "what's their story?"   

  • I like the technique – sharing stories, as well as the idea to think of what the other person’s story is when you are having trouble understanding.  It’s a great way to change your perspective if you are stuck with someone.

  • I like to learn from everyone around me.  One of my most influential mentors has been my manager,

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