What if there were only six magic words that could help you resolve any conflict? Sometimes people make you mad and you over-react or vice versa. Often these situations are a result of a misunderstanding. How to avoid a misunderstanding or how to fix a misunderstanding once it happens? Explain yourself! Brene Brown, a research professor whose TED talk is one of the top five most viewed of all times, has an easy hack to fix any misunderstanding. Start your next sentence with “The story I’m making up is …” and explain your point of view. It will surprise you how quickly emotions will settle down.
Think about the situation when you fought with a loved one or someone else, or you got mad at your co-worker or boss. Remember the moment when you had a feeling that your best friend offended you. If you think about that situation retroactively with a cold head, you will probably realize that some of it was just a story that you created in your head.
Brene Brown explained a personal experience in her book Rising Strong, where her husband Steve opened the refrigerator and said:
“We have no groceries. Not even lunch meat.”
After having a hectic day, she shot back by saying:
“I’m doing the best I can. You can shop too!”
Her husband was confused with her reaction. In her book she explained:
“I had turned his comment into a story about how I’m a disorganized, unreliable partner and mother. I apologized and started my next sentence with the phrase that’s become a lifesaver in my marriage, parenting, and professional life: ‘The story I’m making up is that you were blaming me for not having groceries, that I was screwing up.'”
Her husband explained that he wasn’t blaming her, and that he was just hungry and tired but that he didn’t have the intention of blaming her.
This might sound familiar to everyone. We all had situations where we created a story in our head after only one sentence that was said to us. When you say to someone that you’re making up a story, you are first admitting that to yourself. After admitting the confusion to yourself, you both can get to the bottom of it.
Do you have to take into consideration your emotions? What made you think that way? You can talk about this with the other person. Once you investigated your story and the other side’s intentions, you can ask them to tell you the truth.
Still, you are making yourself vulnerable to another person. When you expose your emotions, especially unpleasant ones that can lead them to let their guard down. Once the fire is extinguished, you can both see another person’s perspective and find a solution for the issue.
Brown suggests asking three questions. You should ask these questions to yourself first:
- What are the facts, and what are my assumptions?
- What do I need to know about the others involved?
- What am I really feeling? What part did I play?
You might find some interesting discoveries which will help you deal with the issue better. There might be some other feeling behind it: sadness, guilt, fear or simply the feeling of tiredness. It’s not comfortable to face the truth or to be honest with the other side but it will lead to a more pleasant situation of resolving the conflict.
So next time you are having a heated argument over only one thing that someone said start your first sentence with these six magic words:
“The story I’m making up is…”
And let the other side explain to you what’s going on and what are their true intentions? You will resolve the issue much easier and quicker.