Does anyone ever tell you to “stop making stories” because my manager says that to our team frequently. If anyone can be a pro at making stories, without being a published author, it’s me. My mind is constantly thinking up hundreds of scenarios of the “what could be”, “what might be”, and “what could have been” in any situation. And, although I hate to admit this, typically they are all worst-case scenarios.
In my line of work, it’s unfortunately too easy to get trapped into the story making mentality because I’m dealing with people all day, every day. A candidate won’t call me back right away so they must no longer be interested in the position. A client is slow to provide feedback so they must have filled it on their own and no longer need my help. My co-worker is being short with me so they must be mad at me for something. What we aren’t thinking about, however, is that we are getting stuck on one scenario when there are quite literally an infinite number of things that could actually be going on.
So, how do you stop yourself from getting into the vicious cycle of creating stories in your mind? I recently was able to sit in on an eye-opening presentation at the Emerging Leaders Conference for the Iowa Society of CPAs from Lindsay Stevenson (if you’re an accounting and finance professional and need some inspiration, look her up as she has quite the list of accomplishments under her name!) about creating stories. It honestly could not have been a more perfect presentation.
One take away that really stuck with me after listening to Lindsay’s presentation is to try and separate fact from fiction before responding. An example of this she gave came in the form of an email from your boss. Let’s say he typically uses smiley faces and exclamation points in all of his correspondence to you, but this time he did not. What happens now? You automatically assume the tone of the email is one of anger and immediately go on the defensive and your reply back to him might reflect that. He must be mad at me; I must have done something wrong; I’m going to get yelled at, or worse, fired. The fact is, he didn’t use any emoticons or exclamation points and the fiction is that he is probably mad at you which will result in your termination. To overcome this, take a deep breath, and think of the OTHER things that could be going on and then respond. The most likely situation is that he simply was in a rush and sent the email quickly.
Another great resource to look up in regard to creating stories is a blog on mindful.org by B Grace Bullock, PhD called ‘How to Stop Your Stories From Running Your Life’. This is a great read and here are a few takeaways directly from her blog:
- “Research shows us that we not only have the capacity to pay attention to and stop the chatter of our stories, but we can also reduce our stress, rewire our brains, and reinvent our relationships by responding to them differently.”
- “The best way to free yourself from this incessant chatter is to step back and view it objectively.”
- Ask yourself the following questions:
- Where did this story come from?
- Is this my story or someone else’s?
- Is this story true now?
- Is this story contributing to, or undermining, my happiness?
- Do I choose to continue to live this story, or is it time to write a new one?
When we create stories, we tend to make ourselves more upset and overreact to the situation. So, next time, instead of creating a story in your head and responding based on your story, wait for all the facts and THEN create your response.
Casey has been with Aureus Group since November of 2016 and currently serves as an Account Manager for the accounting and finance team, working the Kansas City market. She has two years of experience in the staffing and recruiting industry, and holds a bachelor’s of science in speech communication. She recently relocated to the Omaha area and is enjoying life with her new husband and their two dogs. In her spare time, she enjoys working on their new home, attending concerts, and exploring her new city.