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Fact vs. Story – The Most Fundamental Concept in Conscious Leadership

Season 1, Episode 46

caneel executive coach

I'm a social scientist who helps people break out of the invisible traps and make whole-life changes easily and naturally.

Are you a Storyteller? Fact vs. Story

Do you realize how often you tell stories?  

You are an experienced storyteller and might not even know it. 

Even if you’re not the type of person who can tell an enthralling tale over dinner and drinks, you tell notable stories to yourself all the time.  

Stories aren’t simply a narrative with a beginning, middle, and end. Stories are your perspective and experience. 

Stories are the source of a lot of drama.  You create the stories and you create the drama. 

Not all stories lead to suffering but all suffering does stem from a story. When your stories define you, they trap you – often in the drama triangle. 

One of the most fundamental practices of Conscious Leadership is to learn to notice what is fact vs. what is a story and to look for alternative stories. This concept is one of the first things I teach when I begin working with CEOs, founders, and executive teams.

Learning to recognize the distinction between story and fact gives you access to seeing the world in a completely different way. This framework helps you recognize more opportunities to break out of your own patterns and support others in breaking out of theirs. 

Might there be a story about how things need to be different? How somebody should behave in a different way? How something in your life is not enough? Something in you is not enough? 

One of the practices of conscious leadership is to access greater influence, control, and power in our own lives, satisfy our own needs and create our visions by looking for alternate stories. 

Learn how to recognize your stories and learn to speak unarguably with facts.  

What is a Fact?

A fact is anything that’s directly observable. It’s the objective reality of what happened.

It is observable with your five senses and if a video camera were to record it, and you reported exactly what the camera recorded, nobody could argue with it.

Facts are things you can observe. Facts are concrete and objective. No one can argue with true facts. To test whether something is a fact, consider a video recording and whoever watched it would concede the actual thing happened exactly as described. Without a doubt, anyone would validate what you just described was factual, objective, and true. This leaves out judgments, perceptions, etc. 

There are two broad categories of facts. 

The first category is the observables in the external world. This includes things you can access through your senses- sight, hearing, touch, taste, and smell.

The second category of facts is observables in your internal world. These are the facts you can observe in yourself internally. Your inner experience- including your body sensations, non-story emotions, and non-story thoughts. 

What is a Story?

A story is simply an interpretation of observable facts and events to give them meaning. 

Stories put the things you notice in your world together in a way to gives them structure and meaning and helps you to remember them. Your stories are what create your emotions. Your stories are what move and motivate you. Your stories are often how you connect with others. 

When you’re above the line, you recognize your story is simply one of many potential stories and there are others that are equally potentially valid in any situation.

When you’re below the line, you can get wrapped up in your stories and their subsequent drama. 

One of the easiest tricks I use when I’m mediating conversations or negotiations between leaders on an executive team is to make sure they are speaking in the language of facts.

And what’s cool is, you are totally allowed to bring your stories into the conversation. Your stories matter, they have value. Stories create a huge piece of your experience and the way you understand the world, and they’re important to share. The aspect to focus on is your stories are not facts and you are not right about them. They’re just stories.

One of the practices of conscious leadership is to question your stories and to see that the opposite of your story could be at least as true as your story. Labeling them is key because you can remind yourself it is not a fact, it’s not the only way to see this situation or belief. 

What is Speaking Unarguably?

One of my top recommendations for you as a leader is you learn to speak in a language that is unarguable.

Here’s how you do it: if you’re going to share a story, you’re going to claim yourself as the OWNER of the story. When you share your thoughts, you are going to share that YOU are the thinker of those thoughts. 

When you take accountability for your stories as you share them, it encourages minds to remain open and receptive. Owning your thoughts invites someone to see your perspective without feeling like you’re telling them the “right” way to do everything, and your way of seeing it is the only truth.

This conscious communication style gives your team, partner, friends, or family the space to engage in your perspective without triggering defensiveness. Speaking unarguably empowers others to make an actual choice to engage in that perspective. 

Wrap Up

Learning the difference between facts and stories is a powerful step towards consciousness – leading and speaking consciously. 

One of the ways you access greater influence, control, and power in your own life is to look for other stories. Looking for alternate stories is an exercise in creativity and expansion. 

When you get attached to your stories, even if the story is positive, such as, “I’m a super hard worker” your life can become consumed with the attachment to the story. You can become wholly focused on proving your story is right. 

The invitation to you as a conscious leader is to notice whether what you’re conveying is a fact or a story. If it’s a story, it’s valid and it’s creating a lot of your experience. It’s creating a lot of your emotions.

Are you right about it? No.

Are there other stories you could argue are equally true or maybe even the opposite of what you’re saying? Equally true and valid.

When you’re above the line, not engaged in drama, you recognize there are equally valid perspectives in any situation.

Understanding your story aren’t facts frees you from your own limitations and mental blocks. Begin questioning your stories today.


About this episode:

As a leader, you use your storytelling abilities to inspire and motivate. But to create lasting change, use the language of facts to speak unarguably.  

In this week’s episode, explore the fundamental invitation of conscious leadership, which is to understand the difference between a fact and a story. This episode will provide you with the framework to begin to notice whether you’re expressing yourself in the language of facts or stories. Understanding the key differences between facts and stories gives you the knowledge necessary to begin to consciously communicate. 

Throughout this episode, learn about externally and internally-based facts, then explore what a story is and why certain stories prevent progress and growth. Facts and your stories both matter. When you can clearly define facts and stories and use this framework to communicate with intention, you lead consciously. 

6:11 – What is a story?

10:38 – What are the 3 types of inner facts you can observe?

11:48 – Learn how to describe your emotions in an unarguable way.

21:40 – Why understanding facts and stories are key to conscious leadership

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