Changing the narrative …

It happens this way …

I’ve never believed in setting goals or making New Year’s resolutions. Too much pressure to succeed and too many disappointments when I failed. However, this week I’ve come up with a new approach: making an “intention.” The intention for 2019 is to change – chapter by chapter – the narratives from the past that have governed – and often limited  – my life.

Do you know what I mean? Think of all the stories – true or not – we were told about ourselves growing up. You’re too fat/thin. You’re not smart enough/too smart for your own good. Settle for what you have and don’t expect more. You’ll never make a living at that, so study something practical. Why can’t you be like the other kids/your siblings/me?    You’re too shy/awkward/ outspoken/brash. etc., etc., etc.

Add your own narratives. I realized recently that, like revising a poem where I can change the details and infuse it with new, unexpected energy, I can reframe any chapter of my life and reclaim it in new and healthier ways.

One example that’s been on my mind this holiday season: I avoid going to social events where I don’t know people. I’ve used the old “I’m an introvert” as a rationale for years. Yet, who am I missing? What opportunities to share and connect am I losing? So, I intend to reframe that avoidance behavior by walking into future events pretending I’m in charge of getting people to engage with me and with one another.

In her book, Captivate: The Science of Succeeding with People, Vanessa Van Edwards talks about being a conversational “spark.” Rather than the old standbys we often use when meeting someone for the first time – “What brings you here?”, “Where are you from?”, “What do you do?” – she suggests “sparkers” like “Working on any exciting projects right now?”, “What was the highlight of your day/week?”, “Any vacation/travel plans in the near future?”

A friend of mine used some of these sparkers at a recent brunch with eleven retired teacher/friends. She reports that people just loved talking about themselves and story led to story led to story. She left the event empowered and energized rather than feeling on the periphery of conversations. I’m going to follow her good example the next time I’m out socializing.

So, this is the first step in my 2019 intention is to examine the narratives that need revising. That very thought is already empowering and energizing me! Stay tuned!

PS: If you have any “sparkers” that have worked for you, let me know. I’d love to add them to my repertoire.

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Waiting for the MAX in rainy, downtown Portland on Tuesday.  Riding public transportation gave me the chance to engage a young woman in conversation. A learning experience!

2 Comments

  1. I appreciate when people ask me about the here and now … and I like to start off the same. I start with a comment and question about the event or place we are visiting….what I am enjoying most about it, what meaning it has for me …and then an open-ended question….what about for you?

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