Friday, July 01, 2016

The two stories we tell: finding and fighting

I have been working with an advanced communication group and thinking about the quickest way to catch the story someone is telling so that you can support or change it. It seems to me that the essential question to ask is this: "Is this a story about finding something or is it a story about fighting something?" There might be other options, but for the moment, let's assume that it's useful to start with this one frame.

Finding or Fighting?
Problem solving is generally pitched as a fight against something (although some people love to explore for answers). Creativity is generally framed as a finding of something (but some people describe it as a battle). There is no set formula: you have to listen for clues in the words and structure that someone is using in a message. Once you have a working idea whether they are working to find something or to fight something, you can listen to chunk down further.

People look for things they have lost, things they know exist but do not have, things they hope exist (but they are not sure) and things they hope to bring into existence (by creating them). Sometimes they are consciously searching for something and sometimes they only know they were searching when they find what they want. Sometimes they are looking for stuff (material things); sometimes for concepts (like truth or home or identity).

People fight for things and against things. Sometimes they struggle with obstacles or opponents and sometimes with parts of themselves. They might fear the struggle or they might embrace it. They might be born competitors or they might believe that what they want is on the other side of a fight.

When you hear a story, listen for whether it is a story about fighting or a story about finding. It's your first, best clue to finding the common ground you need to understand what is being said, to make a connection, to collaborate or corroborate or contest the message.

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