As of late, I’ve been listening to numerous autobiographies and found them to be enlightening.
There is a subtle difference between a story someone tells about himself or a story one tells about others. The story we tell ourselves has an authenticity about it that no one else can convey. Authenticity, as I mean it here, isn’t about the story being true in all details. It is about the meaning the person seeks to convey, a meaning that is also to be found in the way they want to be seen. The latter being information they are the only ones capable of creating. Interestingly this is also the information we’ll use to appreciate how genuine the person appears to us.
As a listener, I usually have an idea about the person, the organization they work for, and what they did. The way an autobiographer talks about himself adds a layer of interpretation I would never have without the person sharing their own story. It offers a contrast to the way people have talked about them and thus how I heard about them.
There is no story being told without distortion.
Hearing a story from different perspectives allows revisiting how we understood the story. And it recreates the more complex way stories are experienced.
It opens up a space of ambiguity reminding us that no truth is complete.
It is the perfect reminder that in any leadership or coaching situation there is more to it than what we are being told.