Thursday, May 24, 2007

Are you telling the right stories

Over on the Mind Hacks blog, there is a post on a recent NY Times article on narrative psychology. Researchers are studying how stories we tell can be predictive of our mental perspective and ultimately about our contributions to society. This research is very interesting, especially when you couple it with work being done on crucial conversations and Chris Argyris' work on the Ladder of Inferences.

This is worth a read.. check out this excerpt:

"Jonathan Adler, a researcher at Northwestern, has found that people’s accounts of their experiences in psychotherapy provide clues about the nature of their recovery. In a recent study presented at the annual meeting of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology in January, Mr. Adler reported on 180 adults from the Chicago area who had recently completed a course of talk therapy. They sought treatment for things like depression, anxiety, marital problems and fear of flying, and spent months to years in therapy.

At some level, talk therapy has always been an exercise in replaying and reinterpreting each person’s unique life story. Yet Mr. Adler found that in fact those former patients who scored highest on measures of well-being — who had recovered, by standard measures — told very similar tales about their experiences.

They described their problem, whether depression or an eating disorder, as coming on suddenly, as if out of nowhere. They characterized their difficulty as if it were an outside enemy, often giving it a name (the black dog, the walk of shame). And eventually they conquered it."

This work raises more questions for me. Can we predict whether leaders of organizations will be successful by the stories they tell? Or, do the stories we tell ourselves ultimately influence how successful we will be?

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