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MAY 2020

The Stories We Tell Ourselves About Ourselves

Taking Charge® uses a method of conversational analysis called Linguistic Coaching® that allows the Linguistic Coach and learner to examine, or observe, how our underlying backgrounds of interpretations, our assumptions, can close or open possibilities for learning and effective, coordinated action. Our backgrounds of interpretation are actually the stories that we tell ourselves about ourselves, others, and our world that show up as our “Self-Narratives”.


Twelve year old Ralph was constantly picked on by his classmates. He often seemed to say and do things that would deliberately antagonize the other children in his class. He parents reported that his former teachers told them that Ralph had difficulty following directions, couldn’t stay in his seat, rarely completed his assignments, worked well below his grade level, and had “behavior problems.”  Finally, the parents requested educational testing that found Ralph had a previously undiagnosed specific learning disability. Ralph, himself, expressed frustration over his difficulties in school, often murmuring, “I need help.”  Ralph told everyone that he “flunked kindergarten, then they put me in first grade, and I flunked first grade, and then they put me in kindergarten again and I still flunked. I’m stupid!”  His parents worried about Ralph. His father said: “Ralph is just like me. I feel sorry for him. He’s going to have a hard time of it in life.” Ralph’s mother said. “We want to help Ralph. We just don’t know what to do.”


Often, when we speak about ourselves, we repeat the “stories” we have invented (or that other people have said about us) for which there is no, or inaccurate,  evidence to uphold that self-assessment (“I’m stupid” vs. “I have a specific learning disability.”). We would then say that the individual has an “ungrounded” self-assessment, or Self-Narrative. Like Ralph and his parents, these ungrounded Self-Narratives trap us in a Vicious Circle of despair and hopelessness, which closes down possibilities for us to see ourselves as learners, able to make choices, gain competence in taking care of our concerns in life, and take responsibility for our own learning process.


Our Public and Private Self-Narratives can trap us in a Vicious Circle. By engaging in Dialogues for Action, the Linguistic Coach and learner can work in partnership to “walk the talk”. That is, use words and take actions with each other and with other people that open possibilities for learning and future effective, coordinated action.  Tell me about a time the words you used closed or opened possibilities for yourself and others.



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