What Stories are You Making Up in Your Head?

By Kelly Stone
The Hoffman Agency, Portland-Vancouver

As public relations professionals and, well, human beings, we are drawn to storytelling. In PR, our job regularly consists of developing narratives based on however much or little information is offered.

In our high-pressure, results-driven industry, there are, however, stories we may be developing in our heads that don’t serve us well. In her latest book, Rising Strong, Brené Brown encourages us to consider the stories we may be making up in our heads, noting that often they’re simply not true.

For example, what types of stories might you make up in your head (about yourself or others) during one of the following scenarios?

  • A colleague or client does not add you to an important email or alias
  • Your manager calls an unexpected one-on-one
  • A team lead decides to skip all of the meeting topics pertaining to your current projects
  • A client unexpectedly asks for the latest PR results the agency has generated
  • Someone else is assigned to a project you were expecting to work on

Have you ever experienced any of these circumstances? If so, what kind of stories did you make up in your head?

In situations such as these, rather than continuing to spin narratives in our heads, we can engage others; we can be vulnerable and honest about our reaction to a particular situation or request.

Take the last example: someone else is assigned to a project you were expecting to work on. If you went to that project manager and said: “I was expecting to work on X project. When Y colleague was assigned to it instead, I made up a story in my head that I must have disappointed you the last time we worked on this type of project together. Now I’m concerned about my performance.” You may find out that:

  • There’s another project in the works that the team has already assigned you to because your areas of expertise are the perfect fit
  • The team lead believes that person Y has a lighter workload and the team didn’t want to overload you
  • There are in fact areas that you need to improve, and now you’ve started a dialogue to understand and work on them

Let’s save the storytelling for our clients and continue our efforts to be vulnerable, communicative and brave. Give it a try next time you find yourself weaving a tale.

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