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A lot of time is spent talking, writing and ranting about the seemingly horrible way people talk to each other. Recently, one of my most popular articles was titled, “What’s it Like to Be On The Receiving End of You?” and was all about being aware of how you communicate with others and how you are delivering information.

But a couple of things have happened lately, which has me thinking more about the flip side of that:

How are you doing at being on the receiving end of others’ communication efforts?

Because if you’re truly going to connect with someone, you have to not only be good at providing information but also at receiving it.

One of the biggest lessons I’ve been fortunate to learn about is the concept of the stories we tell ourselves. It basically goes like this: be aware of the meanings you attach to what happens that are completely separate from the occurrence itself.

In terms of communicating and receiving information, that may look something like these examples:

OCCURRENCE: A prospective client says they want to work with you, you agree to all the details and send over the paperwork to formalize things and a week later you still haven’t heard from them.

STORY YOU TELL YOURSELF: They changed their mind and hired someone else.

POTENTIAL TRUTH: They’re busy; relieved they know they already have you hired for the project not set to start for two more months and view the paperwork as a final formality not an emergency.

OCCURRENCE: You worked hard on a project for your boss/team/client and it’s come to the final step. You ask them what they think and they give you a quick “it’s great, thanks” and they go back to whatever it was they were doing.

STORY YOU TELL YOURSELF: They don’t like it; you’re not good at your job.

POTENTIAL TRUTH: They’re perfectly happy with your work and appreciative they could depend on you without needing to hover, but like most people these days, they’re very easily distracted or already involved in something else.

We do this to ourselves All The Time!

In his just released book, Fail Until You Don’t, Bobby Bones tells the story of an intern at his radio show who quit his job because of the story he was telling himself regarding why his ideas weren’t being turned into segments for Bobby’s radio show.

What are you doing to yourself with the stories you assign to things? How many sleepless nights have you spent playing the “what did they mean when they said that?” game? How many clients did you lose not because they didn’t want to work with you, but because you didn’t do a good job handling the steps that come immediately after the “yes” because you were all in your head creating problems that didn’t exist.

In her New York Time’s Bestseller, Rising Strong, Dr. Brene’ Brown takes it to another level completely. She not only shares the stories she tells herself but also how she uses the types of stories she realizes she’s telling herself to signal that something is wrong with her thinking. I LOVE this!

Dr. Brown shares that when she realizes she is feeling all superior to people, or starts practicing “gotcha!” conversations in her head, that’s a sign that she’s being emotionally hijacked by the stories that she is telling herself.


One of my personal versions of this is what I call the “always / never” conversation. As in “you always ___________” or “you never _________________.” (Fill in the blank with whatever I don’t want the other person to always or never be doing.)

When those start popping up I know I’m not listening to what is being said and I’m all down the rabbit hole of drama in my head.

This is my new self-improvement obsession and I invite you to join me. Not just paying attention to the stories you tell yourself and recognizing when they’re separate from what is actually happening, but to go deeper and look for the patterns of the types of stories that signify a particularly sensitive spot.

The challenging trick is recognizing when you’re doing it, but the bonus here is how quickly once you recognize you’re telling yourself a story how you can move back into connection and conversation.

Let me know how it goes!

Erin Marcus is an author, speaker and communications specialist helping people to “Conquer the Conversation,” and create improvement in sales, customer service and team dynamics. To bring Erin to your event or business, visit, email or call 847-868-4464.

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