Here’s a story you can probably relate to: You are walking down the street when a friend, coming the other way, stops and asks you “What’s up?” It’s a question you’ve heard a thousand times before — the default, open-ended salutation.
Your choices are many. You can answer any way you want, from the predictable “Fine, what’s up with you?” to an elaborate monologue on any number of topics: the weather, Covid-19, the economy, local politics, your job, your bills, or the unavailability of toilet paper.
In that moment, there is no correct answer. You get to decide what story to tell. What you don’t get to decide is the impact your story will have. That’s up to the listener. But know this: your story will have impact. Everything you say, everything you do has impact, even a seemingly casual moment of passing a friend on the street.
If you watch TV, you can see this phenomenon playing out daily. With an almost infinite number of topics to report on, the news that TV reports is mostly bad news: Coronavirus, corruption, violence, political unrest, terrorism, famine, scandal, disease, gossip, and unemployment.
No surprise there. The classic news mantra rules the day: “If it bleeds, it leads.”
And yet, no matter how much bad news is featured on TV, we keep tuning in. The impact? Our state of well-being declines. We become sadder, more negative, more hopeless and depressed, exacerbating whatever personal worries and anxieties we already had before tuning in.
I’m not suggesting that news outlets airbrush the negative out of their reports. Nor am I suggesting they stop reporting on the bad stuff that’s happening around the world. What I’m suggesting is they find a better balance and make more effort to change the narrative to honour at least something of what’s good and holy and joyful about being alive.
You and I are also news stations. You and I are also reporting on what’s going on in the world. Like the TV executives behind the scenes, we also get to decide what stories to tell — even on the street when a friend asks us how we’re doing. That is our moment of truth. That is our broadcast. That is our time to choose.
Will our stories be local versions of the nightly news, always skewed to what’s bad and wrong, full of gossip, worry, and complaint? Or will we choose to share a new kind of story — one infused with possibility, progress, insight, awareness, and hope?
Mitch Ditkoff, is the President of Idea Champions, the Founder of Wisdom Circles, and the author of two books on the power of personal storytelling, Storytelling for the Revolution and Storytelling at Work. CONTACT: [email protected]