Conflict facts or your story? Which one are you telling yourself?

We often don’t separate our Conflict facts from the stories we tell ourselves. There are two types of stories you can tell yourself.

One story enables you to justify to yourself why you have behaved poorly.

The second type of story is the one you tell yourself about others. Instead of really looking at the conflict facts of what just happened, you instead label people in a negative fashion, placing you in a downward spiral of animosity toward them.

Fact or Fiction

A few examples:

Situation/Scenario

Story You Tell

Your co-worker lets you down and it’s not the first time.

They are unreliable & irresponsible

You let your boss down and it’s not the first time.

It’s because you’ve been overworked recently.

Someone cuts you off while driving

They are aggressive, rude and inconsiderate.

You cut someone off while you are driving

It’s because you are in a hurry and if you don’t catch these lights you’ll be late for work

One of your peers buys the boss a birthday card

It’s because they are trying to impress the boss and trying to make their way in for a promotion.

You buy your boss a birthday card

It’s because you are warm and caring.

Someone flies into a rage at the Water Company

They are bad-tempered

You fly into a rage at the Water Company

It’s because you’re tired and this is the 3rd time you’ve been here trying to resolve the problem and the Water company keeps making the same mistake which is costing you money

Sometimes your stories are accurate, but more often than not they are either inaccurate or completely wrong.

The truth is often somewhere in between the story you’ve told yourself about why the person has acted the way they have and the actual conflict facts.

Subduing your story is important for three reasons:

  1. You open you up to the possibility of a healthy discussion.
  2. It ensures you don’t over-react to a situation
  3. You begin to separate conflict facts from your story.

Use this Exercise to separate Story from Fact

Think of a conflict you have with someone at the moment. On a piece of paper in the left hand column write down all the stories you are telling yourself about the person. Include all the thoughts, feelings, judgments, and conclusions that are running through your mind.

On the right hand column write down all the conflict facts. These are objective, observable, specific actions and information.

As you look at your list you may find that the story you have been telling yourself is not fully supported by all the facts. You will realize that you have made many assumptions and interpretations about what the other person’s behavior MIGHT mean!  We often judge others by their actions, but ourselves by our intentions.  If you truly want to know what the other person’s intentions are, then ask them.

This exercise is designed to help calm down any over-heated emotions you may have running through your body. You will be more likely to hold the conversation with less accusation and more curiosity.  Separating the conflict facts from your story is a great way to help resolve conflict. I would love to hear your thoughts if you do this exercise!

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