The judgement of storytelling

If you say to anyone, ‘but I thought you were,’ this probably means you had told their story without them having the opportunity to tell theirs. They didn’t get the opportunity to tell you. Likely this means you also didn’t get their story right because the only true teller of someone’s story is them.

Our minds like to draw conclusions; we are pattern seekers by genetic design. This also has the side effect of us easily falling into telling someone’s story. Filling in their thoughts, motivations, history and even where they might have come from. If you’ve told someone’s story, even if after they tell you their story, that story you told first has to be untold. It’s a real mess in your mind to unpick all of your own doing.

The easiest way through this is the hardest, and that’s to learn to not tell others’ stories for them. Catch yourself where possible if you fall into this. Call out where you might be inferring behaviour or justifying by creating a backstory. Sometimes we do it to soothe – someone acted a certain way that hurt us, and we self soothe by justifying through storytelling. That might seem of benefit, but it is the same problematic origin.

If someone wants you to know their story, they will tell it, and often, if you stop telling their story, they will have the space to do that. You also will find you’ll have more time to listen.


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