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The stories that others tell about us are only part of the picture and a distorted and incomplete one at that. No-one knows us as we know ourselves, but then we don’t really know ourselves either, in the sense that we are all learning about ourselves all the time.

So it follows that when meeting another person – socially or professionally – we should avoid basing our opinion of them on someone else’s story about them. Alfred Korzybski said that “the map is not the territory”. I would paraphrase this by saying the “the story is not the person.”

The stories others tell about us can be likened to the publisher’s blurb on the back cover of a book. The job of the blurb is to describe the book without too much obvious distortion and in such a way that it will influence the prospective reader. We all know this so we view it with caution. When it comes to forming an opinion about another person we should be equally circumspect about what others say about them.

This means, for me, that I never ask for background prior to speaking so a client as I don’t want someone else’s story to influence my meeting with the person I shall be talking to. I want to meet them as they are, rather than through the filter of another’s impressions of them. I’d rather base my understanding of them on what they have to say to me and on the evidence of my own senses.

Even then I have to remember that we are all editing our stories as we go along, and the blurb will change depending on who we are speaking to, our mood, the direction of the wind, or whatever.

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