How long have you been telling this story?
How long have you been telling this story?

Step Outside the Story is a technique inspired by narrative therapy and the idea that our lives are shaped by the stories we tell ourselves and others about who we are and what has happened to us. These stories can sometimes be limiting or unhelpful and can prevent us from making positive changes or seeing possibility.

The technique involves helping the person to “step outside” their story by gently questioning the underlying assumptions, beliefs and mindsets. By doing so, the person can gain new perspectives on their situation and begin to see the story in a different way. This can open up new possibility and lead to positive change.

In narrative therapy, this process is often called “externalizing conversations”, which means seeing the problem as something separate from the person themselves. In narrative coaching, the focus is more on breaking the story apart and building a more helpful and empowering story.

The technique can be used actively or passively. Ethically, it would probably only ever be used actively with the person’s permission. On the flip side, once you start noticing the stories for what they are, it can be helpful to step outside them and reflect on what the story is saying (not saying) and why it is being told (to you).

Questions in the Image:

  • How long have you been telling this story?
  • What are you leaving out?
  • How would you like to break free of this story?
  • How might it have a different ending?

Want to Read More Around this Topic?

Maps of Narrative Practice by Michael White (link to Micheal White was one of the founders of Narrative Therapy and his works are full of fascinating insights. The opening chapter alone on Externalizing Conversations is worth its weight in gold.

Nurturing Curiosity – Daily Practice: This is part of the Nurturing Curiosity series of tools, insights and questions designed to help nurture curiosity as part of our daily practice. In point of fact, every interaction we have is an opportunity to question what we are observing and how we and others are seeing the world. Also remember that questions come in many forms throughout our day – for example, when we meet people for the first time we tend to swap stories that often answer what do you do and where are you from – these are a wonderful opportunity to ask What is this story really about? What purpose is it serving?

About Tom O’Leary

I coach, mentor and teach high performers to thrive by focusing on the choices we make.

In truth, our paths in life are paved by those choices. We can talk all day but to make our lot better we need to make the smartest decisions and then execute on them as best possible.

My view is that it is about slowing down to speed up. This means spending time being curious and contemplating what might be possible so that when we take action, we can bring all our energy and power to bear.

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