We could look at our lives as a series of stories. Sometimes we share those stories with others. That story-telling can be helpful, both for the teller and the listener.
Some of our stories are happy ones. Those are the ones that show our triumphs, demonstrate our courage, our good luck, or how we have overcome difficulties. Many of us have no problem sharing those stories. In some cases, we share regardless of whether the listener is keen on hearing them or not.
But we have other stories too, and they are not all happy. We have stories of grief when we lose someone. Stories of anger when we see or believe that we are subject to injustice or unfairness. Stories of fear about a medical diagnosis. Stories of helplessness around addiction; stories of abuse; stories of despair. I could go on, but I know I don’t need to. You know about the unhappy stories, and you may have a few of your own.
Some people tell their stories freely and easily, some might say too easily. Others take their stories with them to the grave, never to be disclosed. Maybe they are just private people, or maybe they feel that they don’t want to burden someone with their difficult story.
Here’s a question for you: Which is better: To tell your story? Or to keep it to yourself?
There are pros and cons to both sides.
On the one hand, sharing a hard story can firmly embed it in your mind. As Dr. Glasser puts it, “One trip through the misery is more than enough for most people.” Each time you retell, it’s a lot like taking another trip through the misery.
The story could also burden the listener with feelings of helplessness, sadness, fear and so on. After all, the listener likely has no control over the story; there’s nothing they can do about it. Even though the listener can choose how to respond, when one is faced with a heart-breaking story, it takes effort to remain unaffected.
On the other hand, sharing the story may ease the burden on you, and it may give the listener an opportunity to develop a closer relationship with you. In some cases, the listener might even have practical advice, suggestions and help to offer. Thus, not only does telling the story provide a benefit, but telling it may even change the story.
How do you know whether or not to tell your story? A guideline that I find helpful for many decisions that involve other people is to ask them what they want.
If you’re thinking of sharing your great news, try, “Something great happened for me. Would you like to hear about it?”
Or, perhaps you see someone struggling with an aspect of their life. You want to help. You think that your story could be of benefit. You could offer this, “Something similar happened to me (or to someone I know). Do you want to hear about it?”
Then listen to the answer.
Do you share your happy stories? Do you share your difficult ones? How do you decide whether to tell your stories?
Welcome to Reality Check:
articles and observations inspired by the work of Dr. William Glasser
- Choosing Behaviour
- Choosing Perspective
- Control and Choice
- Develop Understanding
- Doing, Thinking, Feeling, Physiology
- How it is sometimes
- Love & Belonging
- Perception & Reality
- Personal Freedom