How people really see you

eyePay-off: get closer to how people really see you
Investment: >3 mins (1 min if you’d learned to speed read)

Ah good. Ego. I knew I could rely on you to have people open this post.

Oh hello there!

Ahem. Let’s look at how people really see you…

“Tell stories”, you’re told.

They’re a great way to communicate. They’re memorable. They convey emotion and empathy. And people are wired up to engage with them and feel different (maybe even act differently!) after a good story told well.

Stories then, (we’re increasingly told) are an excellent learning tool and an excellent sales and marketing tool. And I agree, they can be.

But unfortunately telling us to “tell stories” does not tell us the whole story.

The full story?

The problem I have with stories, is the illusion of control they can bring us. The bit I’m interested in, is what happens once you release the ‘story’ into the atmosphere? What happens when it gets into the hands of others?

Stories can indeed be extremely potent and powerful. To the point that they can often become almost drug-like, ‘drugging’ people into doing things they sometimes shouldn’t really do. You know, daft, dangerous, costly things.

The story received

The thing is, the story received by the listener isn’t always the story intended by the storyteller. The ‘told story’ fuelled by some form of intent, is just the selected ‘drug’ to drug you with, for now. But it can all go horribly wrong once it’s out there, taking on a life of it’s own…

Which is why I think we could all do with a bit more awareness around the stories we tell, the stories we’re trying to tell, and the stories we and others receive!

There are always multiple stories

There are always multiple versions of the ‘story’. Let’s take a quick look at soms of those…

The told story

‘The talk’.

The untold story

‘The walk’.

People don’t always practice what they preach and actions speak louder than words.

The perceived story

The sum of the ‘told story’ + ‘untold story’ divided or multiplied by (filtered through) our own psychological biases as we walk away.

A great many people think they are thinking when they are merely rearranging their prejudices. – William James

E.g. “that lying swine’s always lying – he told me he had no change but his pockets made a sort of ‘money noise’ as he walked off..”

The full story


What’s really been going on their lives, in full. Not what’s on their Facebook page, I mean the ugly stuff too. No one gets to hear the full story, ever.

Bonus tip: never envy anyone unless…’re prepared to swap your entire life for theirs, every last little ugly detail.

You can’t just cherry pick the good stuff that they let you see! (Since I’m breaking such bad news to you, I may as well take it further, you can’t actually swap places with them in full either, so perhaps I should revise the tip to:

Never envy anyone.

Write that down kids.

How people really see you

So, there are other versions of the story, but it’s the ‘told story’ that gets the glossy frame and a dazzling movie trailer, and couple that with the fact that some people purposefully ‘never let the truth get in the way of a good story’, deliberately drugging you from the start.

But the told story isn’t always how people really see you.

So let’s wrap this up by making this useful:

I don’t know how people really see you. But it’s probably different to how you think they see you, and maybe how you want them to see you.

There’s the story you’re trying to tell others (the people you’ve chosen to care about). There’s the story you’re actually telling others. There’s the stories you tell yourself that aren’t true, but seem to keep you happy. And then there’s the full story, parts of which you forget to tell others and yourself, and parts of which you hide from everyone.

It’s complicated.

3 things you could do:

  1. Get clear on who you care about (e.g. your family, genuine friends, chosen customers, mentors, coaches, learners, or members of a particular group) and who you don’t really care about. Since you don’t care about them, then you also don’t care about how they see you. Remind yourself of that. None of your stories are for them.
  2. When listening to stories of those you have momentarily chosen to care about, explore the gaps between the told, untold, perceived and full stories. Seek to better understand these multiple stories and get as close as possible to their full story (you won’t even come close, but care and try to understand).
  3. When telling stories to those you care about (say when you’re helping people to learn or marketing or selling your good work), ask yourself this:
    “What story am I trying to tell them? And what story are they actually getting? Does my full story support my told story?” And try to close the gap.

The (right) audience is listening…

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