How You Tell Your Story

Watch How You Tell Your Story!

Personal note

This week I’m off to London, Ontario, Canada, to meet with my coach in person, as well as the other wonderful people in my Master Mind group. The very thought of traveling (which makes me more creative, especially at 30,000 feet altitude) and sharing stories with others has lifted my spirits so much that I’m almost giddy.The last week has been a mixed bag: some wins, some losses, but all of it, in retrospect, has had an element of humor in it.  So I resurrected this article from last year…..

Watch How You Tell Your Story!

When bad things happen to good people (you), there is an irresistible urge to share the load by talking about it.  This can have two good results:

You relieve yourself of some of the pressure by sharing
You may have insights into a problem when talking with someone else.

It feels comforting to rush to friends or loved ones to tell them all the bad things that have been happening to you, but it can backfire.  Along the way, you may mentally rehearse everything you’re going to tell them, making sure not to omit any details.  It can be calming to see the look of sympathy in the eyes of someone else, and to hear their consoling words.

When you tell your story in all its intensity, you are reliving the event.  If it was stressful when it happened, your recounting of the story may bring back the same physical stress.   Even your mental rehearsal may do that.

The fact is, an estimated 10% of our stress is due to what happens to us; the other 90% is due to how we think about what happens to us, or how we habitually react to what happens.  So for one real stressful event, you may experience the same reaction many times.  It’s like getting a lot of bang for your buck, except it’s much less desirable than a buck. Each time you go through your story, you are undermining your physical health and your happiness, too, by putting your body through the same raised heart rate and blood pressure, muscular tension, troubled digestion, and mental confusion.

How can you get the release of telling your troubles to others in a way that is healthy?

First, position yourself as a problem-solver, not a victim
Instead of saying something like,  “Why ME?” or “Things like this always happen to me?”, try something like, “This was a real test of my ingenuity.” Or “Once I calmed down, I figured it out.”

Find some humor in the situation – particularly when you’re in the middle of the situation.  When my garage door froze shut, I cobbled together all the extension cords in the house, plugged my hair dryer into the end, and trudged out through the snow to warm up the lock.  No power!  I had to giggle when I realized that I had to go back in and plug the other end of the cords into an outlet in the house, and I giggled even more when I had to make another trip to push the re-set button.

Which brings me to the next point:

The joke’s on you  It happens to everyone, at one time or another – stress leaves us feeling so confused that we overlook simple details and make obvious mistakes. I like to say that Stress Makes Us Stupid.  It’s not the fickle finger of fate poking us once again; it’s a fairly natural and predictable process – but it can be avoided.

When you find yourself blocked at implementing a simple solution during a stressful period, pause, take a deep breath, and think the whole process through before you make a move.  Don’t rush because you want to the stress to end – it’ll just make it worse.

Determine in advance whether you’re asking for advice or help
Be careful who you choose as a listener.  Some people just have to jump in and solve your problems. Other people (often, but not always, men), see the disclosure of your feelings as a call for help

Tell your listener what you want.  Say, “I’m not asking for help in finding a solution at this time/ I really just need to get this off my chest right now.”

Express gratitude to your listener for listening to you
“Whew, it’s great to have a friend like you. Thanks for listening.”

Make it a two-way street
Needless to say, being a good listener who doesn’t make judgments or give unwanted advice when other people tell their stories is a great way to get reciprocity.

When you tell your story the right way, other people will be willing to listen to you again and again rather than avoiding you

Regarding that frozen week of minor crises that I mentioned at the start; I figured I must have told my story right when the friend I e-mailed  wrote back, saying, “That’s the funniest story I’ve heard all day.”

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