Recently I was doing my schtick at New Employee Orientation where I weave in stories (some are 100% true, some are embellished and some are made up). I’ve been doing this for quite a long time and for the most part, it is successful. People enjoy the stories, videos, and exercises intended to make several points and stay with them in an effort to educate people about the culture we want, positive attitude and exceptional customer service.
I provide the new employees with what I call tried and true tools to help them choose a positive attitude. In one exercise I ask the group to look around the room and find everything that is the color blue. Then I tell them to close their eyes (no cheating) and call out everything in the room that is the color red. Nervous chuckles ensue and sometimes I get the, “no fair, you asked us to look for items that were blue”. I laugh right along with them and ask them if it was hard and why? Most of the time I get the answer I am looking for. It’s hard because they weren’t focusing on red. Bingo. I tell them that if we focus on what is wrong with the hospital, our colleagues or our tiny town, we’re going to find it. And….I pause to let this sink in, if we focus on what is right with the hospital, our colleagues and this quaint town, we’re going to find it.
The next tool I provide them caused a major aha for me. I tell them about how we can tell ourselves a story to change our perspective and create a brand new reality. I show a clip from one of my favorite movies, Life is Beautiful, about a man and his son who end up in a concentration camp. The father weaves this beautiful story about how they are part of this wonderous game and the winner receives a real live tank. The gift he provides his young son allows him to perceive the experience in a more positive light. In the end, when a tank comes rolling around the corner, the young boy exclaims, “It’s true.” The story became reality and the narrative changed for the boy. The facts before him were altered to fit his new narrative.
Now…think about that. What did I just say…the facts were altered to fit his new narrative. I still believe in this tool because it can be used for good. For a positive change. Alternately, I had to realize, storytelling can also have startling negative consequences. I now understood that in many ways, our staunch refusal to see the other side is an outcome of deeply ingrained stories we will not let go of. I believe that is what is happening in our country. No matter what the story is, we hang on to the narrative we tell ourselves. We fit those facts into our own perspective.
So…what will it take to come out of the fog of our own making? That very same tool. Tell yourself a story to change your perspective and a new reality will emerge…One where you don’t see the other side as evil incarnate. I know, I know, easier said than done.
The other option is to keep telling positive stories to others and help them change their narrative. I am not sure that all of my stories have hidden positive messages, but I’d like to think I give it the old college try. If you want to take a peek at how I’ve attempted to change the narrative, you know the drill, click on one of the links below!
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