This week’s post comes from David Krahling.
Oh the stories we tell…
I recently enjoyed a great conversation with my forty-something female cousin who is into competitive bicycle racing. This is not the skinny wheel, road racing you might know from Lance Armstrong and Tour De France. This version features fat tired bicycles and courses that go up and down steep hills, through trees, over small logs and around large rocks. Some may think her a tad crazy, but I think she has a perfect attitude about it. She mostly competes against herself, always striving to improve against her own time. She will admit, though, that one of her recent thrills was that she “chicked a guy.”
“Wait, what was that? You what?”
“I chicked a guy. That means I passed a male racer. The men start most races well ahead of us, so passing one of the guys is a big deal. I didn’t gloat. I’ve been passed lots of times myself, so I know how it feels. In this case, it just felt good to know that I was on top of my game.” OK. Good to know that my 48-year-old cousin can still bring her A game to the race course and to dinner table conversation.
Fast forward a month to one of my recent bike rides. I was fourteen miles into a fifteen mile ride, just a tad winded, when I saw two bikes coming up from behind, closing the gap. When I noticed they were female and young, I dug a little deeper to stay ahead, but it soon became clear- I was going to get “chicked.”
And then my stories began. I told myself, “They must be in mile one of their ride, probably doing a two mile sprint, no need to be embarrassed by my pace.” And “Oh man! Added together, the sum of their age is still 10 years short of my own. Oh to be as fit as I was in my twenties.” or “ I wonder if I know them. Maybe they are just messing with me.” or even, “They must have really good bikes. If I had a better bike I’m sure I’d keep up.”
The stories that we tell ourselves often lead us in the wrong direction and to wrong assumptions. My stories were classic victim and villain stories. I told myself stories that framed others as villains [I bet they’re messing with me] and myself as a victim. [Yeah, right, it’s my bike’s fault.] Being aware of the stories we tell ourselves can help us replace our stories with more rational thinking.
Seeing these stories as the defense mechanism that they are is a key concept associated with Crucial Conversations training. Knowing that we all have a tendency to tell such stories can help us see things differently. Recognizing the story and separating fact from feelings can help us keep conversations safe and help us react appropriately. Keeping conversations safe is a fundamental leadership skill. Recognizing the stories we tell is a great first step in doing just that.
What whoppers have you been telling yourself lately?
Continue leading the Interstates way!