In this episode, Chris Watson walks you through the 5 stories that make up the lives of every person in the world. These stories offer an insight into how we should communicate with our audiences & how we receive communication from others. If you can get very clear on these 5 stories then you will have greater success as a communicator & listener.
The stories have a massive impact on 4 major areas:
The way we communicate to others.
The way we others will communicate with you.
The dynamic of 1 on 1 meetings, team meetings, or client meetings.
The obstacle or opportunity in front of us to create a cohesive culture.
Take time after listening to this episode to determine what your 5 stories are & how they are affecting your communication with others.
Welcome to Bridge the Gap Contributor Wednesday, I’m Chris Watson. I’m excited to be back with you all today. Today we’re going to shift our focus from strategic communication into a little bit more of strategic storytelling. I want to talk about specifically five stories that I believe every single person in the world, regardless of your role, regardless of your background, these are the five stories that make up your life, almost govern your life. And these five stories have a massive impact on the way that you communicate on the way that you perceive others, speak to others, as well as the way that you receive information from others. So let’s just dive right in. Here’s the five stories, and then we’ll break each of these down. The first story is what I like to call the standards story. Now this can be your morality, this can be your ethics.
For some people, it might be your religion. If you have a relationship with God per se, or if you don’t have a relationship with a God at al,l but these are your standards, this is what you live by. And that story that you tell yourself is usually in the micro-moments. Moments of conflict, moments when something pops up, moments when you see things, those are standards that you live by. Those can be simple things like, I got too much change back from a grocery store cashier, so I gave that money back. Those can be helping a man or woman, an elderly man or woman to their car. Those can be the way that I treat people internally knowing their situation, whether I have empathy or I don’t. Those are all standards that we live by and I would say is really a foundational story for the way that we live our lives and our standards may change over time, or they may stay the same based upon how we are raised or where we live.
But the standard story is the first story. The second story is the story of self. This is the story that we tell ourselves. Very, very powerful of a story. And in fact, I would say it’s the one that you will see the most action come from. This story that we tell ourselves is a story that we probably know very well. It could be a story that some people know that we tell ourselves. It could be a story that we only tell ourselves the true story when we’re laying down at nighttime in the dark, thinking about our day or we’re in a quiet space that no one else is around, no distractions, so the story you tell yourself. The next one is the story that our sphere is telling us. So these are the people that we trust, the people that are in our inner circle, if you will. The people that are closest to us that will have an influence on our lives.
That can be a spouse that can be a really close friend, that can be a family member, that can be a business partner, but whoever might be, we all have a sphere that is communicating a story to us. That story will have an impact on our life. Then it’s the story of social. Now, this one it’s a pretty big one, especially now when we are consuming as much information as we are on social media channels. But social can be anything from an Instagram, a Facebook, a LinkedIn, but it could also be a podcast, a book, a certain news outlet that you’re tuned into, a magazine. But our social side is things that we’re tuned into of people or things or information that isn’t coming from our sphere. and isn’t coming from ourselves. For young people, especially sometimes the social has a greater effect to then be in a conduit to the story we tell ourselves or the story that our sphere is telling us.
The last story is the story that we share. This is the story that we actually tell people. The one that we share in our actions, the one that we communicate, the one that we’re communicating about our job or about our life or the one that we’re speaking to people’s lives, but we have a story that we’re all sharing. Those are the five stories. Our standard story, our self-story, our sphere story, our social story, and the story that we’re sharing. Those are the five stories that I believe make up every single person’s life in the entire world. Now let’s break these down a little bit. The story of our standards, I believe that we all have a set of standards that we live by now. Some of those are very outspoken. Some of those are just internal. Some of those don’t come up until you’re in an ethical questionable situation where you’re having to pour into our standards.
I think the standards story has a massive amount of value, but also this is the story that when push comes to shove in certain situations, this is the one that wins out. Very seldom do we see people shift and change their standards in the moment. And if they do, then they don’t really know what their standards are. Their standards are, whatever their sphere tells them. We all have a standard story, things we’re willing to say or do actions we’re willing to let people see and things that we’re not. But we all have standards that we live by. And that standard story really makes up the rest of the stories. It really makes up what we’re tuned into in all of our stories. The story of self. I always like to tell people that you know, when we show up to our job every day, we are, we tell ourselves a story. We are excited about the day we are worried about the day, we are scared about the day.
I mean, there’s a lot of psychology on how things will manifest based upon the thing that you’re telling yourself. So I believe that I’m going to have success today in my sales calls. Or if I’m believe that we’re going have a great one-on-one with our manager or boss, or I believe that our organization is thriving. Then the truth is, is that I’ll probably act in that manner. I’ll probably communicate in that manner. So the story we tell ourselves has a massive, massive impact on how we handle success, how we handle failure. It manages how we are going to have relationships. So the story of self, the story you tell yourself is one of the most powerful stories out of these five, for sure. And I would say over the course of the last, probably three years, I’ve heard the story you tell yourself, the story you tell yourself over and over and over.
But you know, if you’re listening to this, we recently just came off and March madness. And I always think about what’s the story that those athletes are telling themselves at the free-throw line, they need to make these two shots. What is the story they tell themselves? What’s the story that a coach is telling themselves when they know they’re down by five points, two possessions with 12 seconds left on the clock? Those are the moments I like to think about is what’s the story they’re telling themselves right now? Is it a story of belief? Is it a story of doubt? Is it a story of, “I’ve been here before so we’re going to have success,” whatever it might be. There’s a story that they’re telling themselves in all of those pressure moments. I like to say that the micro battles of our life, the ones that we win have a macro outcome.
So all these different micro-moments create macro outcomes, because the more micro-moments that we have compound over time. Let’s talk about the story that our sphere is telling us. Now, there is going to be conflict throughout our lives, the story of self, and the story of our sphere. The story we’re telling ourselves and story that of the people I trust the stories they’re telling me. We’ve all had it happen, where we thought we were making the right decisions in our life. We had told ourselves, this is the path. This is the right job. This is the right relationship. This is the right investment. And then someone on our sphere, who we trust, who we love, who we care about, spoke into our life. That’s not the right relationship. That’s not the right investment. Are you sure that’s the right job? Asking us these tough questions.
Now, some of us fight it, some of us, “oh, you don’t know me.” And I thought, you really knew me and you’ve changed. And some of us fight it. Some of us know that we’re wrong. Some of us take time. But there’s going to be conflict sphere to self. And here’s what I tell people. I like to kind of make up my inner circle of a sphere of people that I can let them know and can give them permission to say, “look, you can speak into my life about my relationships because you see it so well, because you’ve been in a lot of relationships, because you have experience in that.” I want to give you permission that if you ever see any of my relationships having a negative impact on my life or a relationship that you think is having a positive impact, I want to give you permission to speak to me about that.
Tell me a story about that. Speak into my world about that. I think it’s very valuable to kind of see our sphere of influence those that are closest to us. I like to give them permission and I like to see how can they be, I guess, enabled to be more intentional about how they communicate. If I’m running an organization, want my business partner to know what kind of story should they speak in my world. If I’m on a leadership team, then we need to know each leader, the sphere that I work in, what story they’re going to be telling and what what’s their value that they’re bringing in with the story that they’re telling. So we need to consider our sphere as an opportunity for us to think differently, to think outside the box, to not get caught in a, in a rut to not get stuck in what we believe, “we always do this,
“this is the way I do it. I have success in this.” Because as times change and moments change, as our sphere maybe is tuned into a different social story than us. I want to hear an outside perspective, and we need to go into our sphere to be able to give them permission and to hear the stories they’re telling ourselves. There will be contact or conflict. And there has been times in my life just like yours, that the story I told myself won out, and it actually was the winning story. It was the right story. And I’ve had people in my sphere come back and say “great job for you. I was in a bad place. I probably was projecting. I was telling you things I needed to tell myself.” And we see that a lot of times. So the story our sphere is telling us is an outside influence and perspective.
So that we’re not so just blindsided by our own story, that we’re telling ourselves to not listen to people that we we know and care about, as well as that they care about our lives more than they care about our performance. The key there is that line. I’ve heard people say, “well, yeah, my, my boss is my sphere.” Yeah, your boss is in your sphere. What you need to evaluate is does your boss care about your life as much as they care about your success? Or my accountant, my financial planner. Well, do they care about you, or do they care about your money having success? And we need to be able steal that and understand, do they care about me or do they just care about the success of my money, success of my business or just my my overall performance?
Because if they do then maybe the story they’re telling ourselves is self-serving. So we need to consider that when we’re thinking about the story of our sphere. The story of social. Well, I don’t think I have to go deep into this one. I think we’re all tuned into social. We’re all pouring into information. We’re reading Twitter, reading Facebook, my caution to you would be is make sure that the social stories that you’re tuned into have weight, that the people that you’re actually taking action from those stories, they’ve been tested. That you are doing your due diligence. I have in my own personal life, listened to two podcasts about sleep. One podcast says, “we only need four hours.” And the other one says, “we need eight.” I’ve listened to podcasts about nutrition. One of them saying, “don’t eat vegetables.
It’s really hard on your body to metabolize.” And the other one’s saying we need fruits, meats, and vegetables. So we’re going to get a lot of information from our social. And I would always just tell you, test it. Test the information, and pour into yourself from the social world that’s out there. And also use it as a way to speak into people in your life that you’re in their sphere. Lastly, the story that we’re sharing. It’s a really powerful story because I think often sometimes the story we tell ourselves, isn’t actually the story that we’re projecting in the way that we share. I dunno, I’ve struggled this with this in my own life that I felt like I needed to share the right story. I needed to share the story that would help me fit in, that would help me look like I belong and that category and that group and that moment on that team.
And so sometimes, the story we share, isn’t actually the story we’re telling ourselves. And that can cause a lot of stress. It can cause a lot of headache, because we’re spending so much time on wanting to share a story that blends, share a story that makes me look better than what I actually feel. And then we have to keep that up. And you know, I would tell you that you are better off to really think about what is it that I believe about myself? And if that’s off, that’s where then you need to consider people in your sphere to speak into your life. You need to consider spending time with a counselor, spending time with a therapist, whoever might be to get that story right Because it will have an impact on the story that you’re sharing. The story that you’re sharing has to be a story that you share when you have success story that you share, when you have failure, a story that you are speaking to other people’s lives, but you’re confident in this story, you’re passionate about this story.
You’re sharing this story to create change, to elicit action out of the audience. And when we think about these five stories, there’s really four things that happen within an organization internally, as well as externally, when we are communicating these five stories or listening to them. Number one is that these five stories are going to have an effect on how we communicate to others. If I’m telling myself a story that I’m a leader, then I’m going to begin to communicate to people through a leadership lens. If I tell myself a story that I’m not good enough, I’m probably going to communicate to people according to this, not good enough belief. That’s number one, it will affect the way they communicate. So you need to be making sure you understand these five stories to agree of, “how does this affect the way I communicate with others?”
This will affect how your audience will receive your communication. So your audience it’s twofold, but your audience will also be telling themselves five stories. And those five stories will have an impact on the way they receive your information. So you need to consider how is my audience going to be affected by the story I’m telling myself, by the story I’m tuned into in my sphere? And how will they be affected by what they’re tuned into socially when their tuned into their sphere? This is why I always tell sales people and marketing people. We want to know our audience so well, what are they tuned into? What are they commenting on? What are they listening to? What are they advocating for? If I can figure out who’s in their sphere, I can figure out what they’re tuned into socially. Then I can better understand how I need to communicate with them so that it has better alignment, because I want to communicate with them in a way that they will fully understand.
So that then they’re curious. So then they ask me more questions about my product or my service. And internally I, want to communicate in a way that has the greatest impact the greatest level of possible success for productivity for culture, for those things. So I need to make sure I understand my audiences, kind of their five stories, which I can get probably three out of those five, for sure. And then maybe over time spending it with them, I can understand, “you know, I think this is their standards. And I think this is probably the story they’re telling themselves.” Number three, this will affect the dynamic of any one-on-one or team meeting. When you are a leader and when you’re on a team, these five stories are going to have a massive impact. The story you tell yourself, when you show up to the meeting, massive impact. When you have a one on one, and you believe that your your boss or your manager or your leader is telling themselves X story about the organization, or they’ve told other people on your team a certain story and communicated that, it’s going to have an impact.
So understand that every time you’re in a team meeting, every time you’re in a one-on-one, every time you’re in a group setting, that all of these five stories are going through people’s heads very quickly. And in most moments they are passing through their brain when they’re getting ready to take action. And then lastly, this will be the obstacle or the opportunity to create a better culture. I believe internally that if I was leading a team, that the very first thing I would do is I would coach my people on these five stories. And I would ask them, “do you have a strategy around the story you’re going tell yourself when you have success, the story you’re gonna tell yourself when you have failure, what’s the story you’re telling yourself about the future that you want?” I’d also want to know in your sphere, are people supporting you?
Are they telling you the stories that you need and want to be able to have success? Then I would ask them, “Hey, what’s the stories that you’re tuned into? Is there a certain book or a podcast, or is there something that you’re tuned into socially, that’s having a very positive impact on your life or one that you want, that we can work to find together that we can share out with the team, if you are already found it and had success with it?” And then I would want to know what this story that you want to share here. I’m really asking them about the story they want to share through their actions, the story they wat to share through their words. Remember that all of these stories have a verbal and nonverbal component. Don’t get me wrong. We we’ve all been in organizations where we didn’t really don’t want to be there.
In that organization, we also, people probably knew we didn’t want to be there, or we didn’t act like we want to be there, which has a massive impact on culture. And that has a massive impact on the way that someone’s going to lead us and direct us and spend time with us. Here’s the challenge. The challenge is that if you’re in a leadership position, you should want to know what these five stories are for your people. There’s some sticky places like their standards, and their morals, and their ethics, but you want know that these people have good character. And so we can ask different questions to understand that and noninvasive way, but I would coach people on the story they’re telling themselves and how much of an impact that is.
I would coach them on, do they have the right sphere and coach them on, are they tuned into the right thing socially? And I would coach them on, here’s the story you’re sharing right now with verbal and nonverbal. Is this what you want to share here in the organization? Your challenge is to not only figure out out those five stories for yourself to write ’em down, to hone in on them, to believe in them, to make sure you’re pouring in the right things, to make sure that you’re saying the right things, to make sure your non-verbal cues are the right things for your people and for your organization, as well as to understand the five stories that your people are telling others and that they have for themselves. You’re going to find that the more that you can align people on these five stories, the more that you can have synergy along these five stories, then there are five stories that your organization is telling, and that’s your culture, the standards we live by as an organization, the ethics we have as an organization, the story that our organization tells itself about who we are in the marketplace and so on and so forth with all of th other stories.
What I hope is is that as you’re hearing this word stories that you’re not getting lost in any ambiguous meanings of what that word means, all we’re talking about is communication. I believe that we all communicate in stories. We all actually metabolize information in stories. And when we hear people tell ourselves, we build a story in our head. And when we communicate with people, we’re literally telling them, some sort of story, even if that story is facts, or figures or a timeline. Thanks for listening to this week’s BTG Contributor Wednesday, please connect with firstname.lastname@example.org.