Tuesday, 31 December 2013

On the last day of 2013 take control of the narrative

Yesterday, I came across two different messages on 2.0. One was a French business magazine's top ten of what was to come after january 1: The language was risk, fear, absurdity, more fear, anger, mal aimé (kinda nineteenth century mal d'être caused by other's dislike), struggle, really really fearsome predictions for 2014.

Then I received a message from Google about what 2013 had been about from Internet searches: new beginning, courage, lending a hand, inspiration - being inspired and inspirational. http://www.google.com/trends/topcharts?zg=full&hl=en&utm_source=google&utm_medium=hpp&utm_campaign=nye

Same year, same facts, same one goddam thing after another, different narrative. The stark difference in outlook brought back to mind how much the narrative matters. In fact, narratives are all around, and they say as much about the person holding forth as they do about what they describe.

I recently came across a very senior HR manager who told me how accident reports should be contested - we don't want to have in our books an accident on Monday morning because some guy injured himself playing football on Sunday. That's a narrative.

Alternatively, I work with CEOs who consider that any accident, no matter what the reason is, is counted as an accident immediately as a show of respect for people and as a commitment to safety in their company. So spraining your ankle on the way to work counts as an accident - end of debate. That's another narrative.

The stories we tell ourselves open some doors and close some others. We arrive in this world with the reasoning software more or less wired in, but not its affective feed-back system. This we build and evolve through our life by liking some ideas and acts (and doing more of those) or disliking some thoughts and acts (and trying to do less). This part remains flexible and can (and is) changed. A key to these changes are narratives.

First, we need to realize the dangers (and temptations) of the single stories. There is never one narrative, there are always many, and according to how the story is told, the emotional content differs:

She met a stranger in a bar. He offered to give her a lift home. She was home half and hour early.

Why is this ending surprising? Because this is the story we use to frighten our children with and uh oh, we know where this is going. But does it really?

Second, we can consciously change the emotional content of our narratives by playing around with strength/weakness, opportunity/threat. Being militantly positive doesn't mean being naïve, in the same way that committing to non violence doesn't mean being weak. In both case, it probably requires more courage, more steadfastness then letting the primeval brain snarl and bite.

Thirdly, no one can tell others what to think (well, you can, but what good will it do?). However, by expressing your own narrative clearly you create a frame for interpretation for others - and even if they disagree, this will shake up their single narrative. There is more to memes than glib, fun and superficial.

I guess this was the hunch that led to this blog, although I had not seen it clearly. We need spaces for the narratives we want to create, for them to be fleshed out and made real, to reach out to what we want to be: stories of people out there who are changing narratives through their actions: flags set upon the hill for all to see.

Thank you all for your post,
Have an excellent last day of 2013
And only the best for twenty fourteen!

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