by Meochia N. Thompson
Be careful not to get caught up in the drama of the story, or you might just miss the whole picture. In other words, the way you retell a story can influence the people listening.
Imagine you went on a romantic weekend getaway with your spouse and had a great time for the most part. However, an incident happened that put a slight crinkle in one of your perfect evenings. For instance, a cute, giggly waitress decided to have an extended conversation with him while you were away in the ladies room. However, when you walked back to the table and interrupted the intense chat they were engaged in with a soft but forceful cough and your husband nervously says, “Oh, by the way this is (insert your name here),” instead of introducing you as his wife (insert your name here). You know, that type of a wrinkle. As a result, you were very annoyed with how your spouse handled the situation. You addressed the incident, found common ground and you both went off to enjoy the rest of your vacation in wonderful bliss.
A week goes by, and you are on the phone with your best friend who totally gets you, and they pop the anticipated question, “So, how was your vacation?”
This could be your magic moment to either get “ohs” and “ahs” or get points. The winner in most of us would choose to get points. So, we start manipulating the story by adding our own effects and drama to the situation. Saying our words slowly and carefully enough, so our audience doesn’t miss the point. Instead of just saying how wonderful everything was or going into detail about the red snapper caught fresh from the ocean and grilled on stones as you sat and watched while sipping mango margaritas, you decide to tell a different story— the story of, “He did me wrong.”
When the winner in us begins to retell the story, we share how great the trip was but also add how we can’t believe he just let such and such happen. Of course, you know what happens next.
Before you can even begin telling the rest of the story, your best friend interrupts right on cue like you knew they would and immediately, says, “What! Why would he ever do that?”
Now, all of those feelings we put away have resurfaced, and we just can’t let our partner off the hook for what we have already stashed.
We thought everything was resolved, but there’s more: you and your spouse are sitting alone having a nice and quiet evening and you say, “You know, I was sharing with a friend about what happened last weekend, and she said you were totally wrong! How could you forget that I am your wife!”
You get upset again and revert back to where you started when you first had the discussion in vacation town. Now, your spouse is trying to defend themselves, again, over a point that was already made. There is no more peace.
How did you get back there?
You got back there because you didn’t change the narrative. You got back there because you decided to look back instead of move forward. You decided to step in a hole that you saw coming. How do you avoid falling into these traps in the future? You have to change your viewpoint to a more positive perspective. You have to know yourself, your audience and the purpose of the story, and you have to do a heart check to remove any and all hidden agendas.
Here’s how you start:
When your friend asks how your vacation went, tell them about how fabulous it was. Talk about how much fun you had, what you learned and the restaurants you dined in. That shift in storytelling will leave you feeling happy and loveable towards your mate because that pleasant flashback takes you back to those beautiful moments.
The way we retell our story determines the impact it has on everyone around us. So, sacrifice a little to gain a lot. Leave the meat in the story and spit out the bones. There is no need to rehash negativity. You can still tell a good, truthful, exciting story without all the drama, especially if it’s going to have a negative effect on your relationship. Before you go spreading the news, don’t forget check for these five things:
1. Perform a heart check
Examine your motive behind the version of the story you are telling.
2. Be honest
Does this person really need to know–or care to know–about the drama?
Will this information take away from the bigger picture?
4. Can I leave the story here?
Determine if rehashing the story will make you upset again.
5. Is the issue resolved?
There is no need to solve a problem that has already been fixed.
If you find that you are still upset about the issue, be sure to go to your spouse and share your concerns so you won’t fester any disappointment in the future.
When it comes to changing your narrative, it doesn’t matter if the cup is half-empty or full when you are thirsty. The most important question you need to ask is if what is inside is drinkable and if so, can you have some? We must learn to change the way we retell our stories. Always remember your purpose and the impact you want to leave. Drama can happen anywhere, but a good, positive story is like a breath of fresh air to everyone who hears it.
Meochia Nochi Thompson the Publisher of Blessed Pen Ink, author of “A Book of Poetry a Sister Can Eat To” and hosts an online radio show called Chick Chats. Her specialties include cooking, hugs and words that inspire.