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• You believe you should help someone, but don’t.

• You believe you should apologize, but don’t.

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• You believe you should stay late to finish up on a commitment,

but go home instead.

• You say yes when you know you should say no, then hope no

one follows up to see if you keep your commitment.

• You believe you should talk to someone about concerns you

have with him or her, but don’t.

• You do less than your share and think you should acknowl­

edge it, but say nothing knowing no one else will bring it up


• You believe you should listen respectfully to feedback, but

become defensive instead.

• You see problems with a plan someone presents and think you

should speak up, but don’t.

• You fai l to complete an assignment on time and believe you

should let others know, but don’t.




• You know you have information a coworker could use, but

keep it to yourself.

Even small sellouts like these get us started telling clever stories.

When we don’t admit to our own mistakes, we obsess about others’

faults, our innocence, and our powerlessness to do anything other

than what we’re already doing. We tell a clever story when we want

self-justification more than results. Of course, self-justification is

not what we really want, but we certainly act as if it is.

With that sad fact in mind, let’s focus on what we really want.

Let’s look at the final Master My Stories skill.

Tell the Rest of the Story

Once we’ve learned to recognize the clever stories we tell our­

selves, we can move to the final Master My Stories skill. The dia­

logue-smart recognize that they’re telling clever stories, stop,

and then do what it takes to tell a useful story. A useful story, by

definition, creates emotions that lead to healthy action-such as


And what transforms a clever story into a useful one? The rest

of the story. That’s because clever stories have one characteristic

in common: They’re incomplete. Clever stories omit crucial

information about us, about others, and about our options. Only

by including all of these essential details can clever stories be

transformed into useful ones.

What’s the best way to fill in the missing details? Quite sim­

ply, it’s done by turning victims into actors, villains into humans,

and the helpless into the able. Here’s how.

Turn victims into actors . If you notice that you’re talking

about yourself as an innocent victim (and you weren’t held up at

gunpoint) , ask:

• Am I pretending not to notice my role in the problem?




This question jars you into facing up to the fact that maybe,

just maybe, you did something to help cause the problem. Instead

of being a victim, you were an actor. This doesn’t necessarily

mean you had malicious motives. Perhaps your contribution was

merely a thoughtless omission. Nonetheless, you contributed.

For example, a coworker constantly leaves the harder or nox­

ious tasks for you to complete. You’ve frequently complained to

friends and loved ones about being exploited. The parts you

leave out of the story are that you smile broadly when your boss

compliments you for your willingness to take on challenging

jobs, and you’ve never said anything to your coworker. You’ve

hinted, but that’s about it.

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