Storytelling is part of the human condition. We learn through stories, come to better understand through stories, and communicate through stories. Stories are powerful tools to understand ourselves and the world around us. That said, stories can also limit our thinking if we have decided that a particular story we are telling ourselves is true when it’s really not.

When introducing the concept of stories to your client, it can be helpful to provide an example, or to point out a story that you see your client telling themselves. By pointing out the story, and then asking some powerful questions about it, you can assist your client in interrogating whether that story is holding them back or causing them to have a mis-perception about their ability to achieve their goals.

Here is an example of what this might look like in a coaching session:

Client: I’ve always been a terrible teacher. It’s really holding me back from being successful and I know I’m not going to get tenure because of it.

Coach: I hear a story that you’re telling yourself about being a terrible teacher. Should we explore that a little if you think it might help you achieve your goal of tenure?

In this scenario, useful powerful questions might include:

  • What does it mean to be a terrible teacher?
  • What are the measurements of teaching quality?
  • What skills help to make a teacher effective?
  • What are your teaching strengths
  • What evidence do you see that you are a terrible teacher?

By exploring the story around a client’s perception, you may be able to offer them clarity about their interpretation or to identify action items that might help them to move forward.