I met up with a coaching colleague yesterday for a great catch up over a cuppa. We met in a gigantic bookshop, appropriately, as both of us are avid readers.
One of our interests is the subject of storytelling. In particular, the stories that people construct about themselves. As coaches, we must gently challenge someone’s self-created narrative with the question, “Is that really true?” Sometimes we tell ourselves stories and constantly seek (and usually find) evidence to support them and keep them going, alive. The coach however might find a different perspective, a different tale that the client can tell him/herself. Just planting the notion that there may be a different viewpoint, a different way of making sense of events, is enough to set someone thinking.
A quote from ‘Birds of Heaven’ by Ben Okri (which I came across in an article by psychologists Steven Killick and Neil Frude) illustrates the point beautifully:
It is easy to forget how mysterious and mighty stories are. They do their work in silence, invisibly. They work with all the internal materials of the mind and self. They become part of you while changing you. Beware the stories you read or tell: subtly, at night, beneath the waters of consciousness, they are altering your world.