The minutes ticked by as I sat on the patio of my favorite breakfast spot. Smelling the sea breeze on the air, I re-read the menu for the 4th time.
Half an hour later than agreed upon, my best friend gave me an apologetic hug and sat down at our table so we could enjoy some Sunday brunch mimosas and pancakes.
I couldn’t bite my tongue and told her “You’re always running late!” She was taken aback, got defensive, and argued with me that it wasn’t true. And she was right.
I wasn’t speaking in the language of facts, I was speaking in story language.
The only way her always being late would be a fact would be if it was true 100% of the time, and that would be pretty hard to observe unless I followed her around with a camera, clock, and her calendar for her whole entire life.
And there had been many occasions where she showed up to our plans on time or even early. I had spoken unconsciously.
I was in drama, asserting my story as truth and convinced I was right without considering the alternatives. My friend had immediately become defensive because my language was based on drama and came out accusatory and shaming.
There was a way I could have communicated with her in a way that was unarguable AND productive. This is the super ninja communication tool – speaking in the language of facts.
I could have presented the facts to her, without blame, shame, or guilt.
I could have said “I notice the past three times we’ve had an agreement to meet, you arrived at least ten minutes after the time scheduled on the calendar.”
The Language of Facts
This statement is unarguable, spoken in the language of facts. Avoiding story emotions or triggering words, I didn’t even say the word late, just there is a pattern and I have noticed it occurring a specific number of times.
By speaking this way, I don’t claim to know how she is in her whole entire life, I simply state the facts I have personally observed.
When you’re dealing with facts, everything is a lot less personal. You’re not making statements that indicate a certain way of being or characteristic, you’re simply relaying data.
From there you can have a non-judgmental, and non-shaming, conversation about how to move forward. Starting with an unarguable statement allows you to move into action, brings you out of drama, and puts you and whoever you are communicating with into a more creative, high-integrity space less steeped in story and drama.
This type of communication is available to you ALWAYS and can benefit both your professional and personal life.
How could speaking this way benefit you?
Could you perhaps resolve some relationship tensions and issues bothering you?
Could you ask for a different role at work, a promotion, or a raise?
Could you renegotiate agreements with your family or your partner that would help both of you to get more of what you want?
This communication tool is both the simplest skill in the world and one of the most challenging to stick with.
Speaking unarguably is a useful way to become self-aware of when you might be dipping into drama, a path to get out of drama, and a technique to stop spreading drama in your relationships and life.
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.
Speaking unarguably means you’re speaking in facts, and you are not speaking in stories.
It can be tricky to disentangle yourself from your stories long enough to speak unarguably when you’re in drama. When you’re in drama, it’s by definition challenging to figure out what the facts are because you are so connected to your righteous stories about what is true.
It’s a really great tool whenever you’re getting into a sticky communication situation to pause and ask yourself, “Okay, what’s actually true? What are the facts? What do I really want to ask for? What do I want to get across?”
It might take us some time to disentangle the drama, but the more you practice this you will master it. This is a total life and leadership game changer!
Staying grounded in facts keeps you from getting dragged into a drama-based conversation even when you are surrounded by people who are in drama, speaking from drama, telling stories and getting triggered.
Learning the difference between facts and stories is a powerful step towards consciousness.
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. 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 what you just described was factual, 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 you notice in your world together in a way to give them structure and meaning and help you to remember them.
Your stories are what create your emotions. Your stories are what move and motivate you. Our stories are often how we connect with each other.
When you’re Above the Line, you recognize your story is simply one of many potential stories and there are others 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 they are speaking in the language of facts.
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 you understand the world, and they’re important to share. The aspect to zero in on is 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 the opposite of our stories could be at least as true as our stories.
Labeling them is key because you can remind yourself this is not a fact, it’s not the only way to see this situation or belief.
When communicating unarguably, you share your stories by saying things like “I have the thought…..” or “I make up a story….” Speaking in this manner makes your statement factual. It is an internal observation you are making.
The key here is to communicate it as your thought not as a fact. This allows others to see your perspective and then communicate their perspective or point of view as it may be different than yours. This also helps to keep you grounded to the concept of your stories may not be right.
This is how you keep your stories conscious and avoid drama-based thinking and communication.
This article is related to my podcast episode on speaking unarguably – Listen here.