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Are you a Storyteller? Understanding Fact vs. Story

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

Not all stories lead to suffering but all suffering stems from a story. When our stories define us, they trap us. 

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 that we can observe. Facts are concrete and objective. Nobody can argue with true facts. To test whether something is a fact, consider whether if there was a video camera whoever watched it would concede that that was the actual thing that happened. Without a doubt, anyone would validate that what you just described was very factual and objective and true. 

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 that give them meaning. 

Stories put the things that we notice in our world together in a way that gives them structure and meaning and helps us to remember them. Our stories are what create our emotions. Our stories are what move and motivate us. Our stories are often how we connect with each other. 

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

When you’re below the line, you can get really 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 the same executive team, is making sure that 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 a lot, they have value. Stories create a huge piece of your experience and the way that you understand the world, and they’re important to share. The aspect to zero in on is that you’re not right about your stories. They’re just stories.

One of the practices of conscious leadership is to question our stories and to see that the opposite of our stories could be at least as true as our stories. Labeling them is key because you can remind yourself that this 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 that 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 that 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 that 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 toward consciousness. 

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 that story. You can become wholly focused on proving that 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, that’s valid, that’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 that 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 that there are equally valid perspectives in any situation.

Understanding that your stories aren’t facts frees you from your own limitations and mental blocks. 

This article is related to my podcast episode on Fact vs. Story – Listen here. 

Photography by Kelley Raye //

Dr. Caneel Joyce is a CEO Coach and social scientist who helps people break out of the invisible traps and make whole-life changes easily and naturally.

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