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  • Andrew Scott

Try it for Yourself

The ManyStory Approach

This is an exercise I use on my Stories for Change Workshop, to give people an experience of the ManyStory Approach in practice. It normally works extremely well. It is in three 15 minute phases.

You will need to work with a colleague, who is willing to share an unhelpful story that has caused, or is causing, problems for him or her.

How to Loosen the Grip

You have 15 minutes for this phase. Use that time to:

1 Ask questions of your colleague to explore his or her unhelpful story:

What is it you want to tell me about?

2 Summarise your understanding to demonstrate that you have understood the story from your colleague’s perspective:

So what you are saying is…

3 Invite your colleague to name the story:

If you had to give this story a name, like a chapter in a book, or a film title, what might you call it?

From here on use the name your colleague gives the story - indicated here by {unhelpful story name}.

4 Ask questions that your colleague may not already have asked about the story, such as When did this story of {unhelpful story name} start to be so dominant in your life?’

5 Explore the story as a story, out there, separate from both you and the Individual;

So {unhelpful story name} gets in the way of your doing (or being) what you want?’

6 If there is time, explore the story in more depth - back story, other characters. Ask questions to stimulate your colleague to reflect on who or what keeps the unhelpful story so dominant in her life.

Who is the author of {unhelpful story name}?

Who helps keep {unhelpful story name} going?

If {unhelpful story name} goes unchecked, where will it end up?

7 Ask her where she stands in relation to the story:

So now we have explored it a bit more, where do you stand in relation to {unhelpful story name}?

How to Discover Helpful Stories

You have 15 minutes for this phase. Use that time to:

1 Ask your colleague to think of occasions when the unhelpful story did not dominate her experience:

When is ‘{unhelpful story name}’ less in evidence?

2 Ask about these Exceptions:

What made this Exception to ‘{unhelpful story name}’ possible?

Why is this Exception significant?

What hope does this Exception hold out to you?

3 Seek further Exceptions:

When else can you think of when {unhelpful story name} did not dominate your life/this relationship?

4 Encourage your colleague to explore, understand and enrich these Exceptions, to give them more significance and weight: How would it be if there were more occasions like this?

5 Ask about the Implicit Positive Values in {unhelpful story name}.

Why do you see {key event} as so negative? What does that say about your values?

6 Invite your colleague to discover the latent helpful story:

From all we have discussed, can you imagine a more positive story than {unhelpful story name}, which accounts for everything in that story, and also the Exceptions and the Implicit Positive Values we have explored?

7 Invite your colleague to name this new story:

If you had to give this new, more helpful story a name, what would you call it?

8 Invite your colleague to check that it makes sense:

Does {new helpful story name} account better for all the evidence than {unhelpful story name}?

9 If there is time, explore {new helpful story name} in more depth:

What possibilities for the future does {new helpful story name} offer you?

What does {new helpful story name} say about what is truly important to you?

How important is it to you to honour those values in your life?

10 Invite your colleague to take a stand:

Where do you stand with regard to {new helpful story name}?

How to Enrich the Plot

You have 15 minutes for this phase. Use that time to:

1 Invite your colleague to identify more Exceptions that are consistent with the helpful story:

What other occasions can you think of when {new helpful story name} was in evidence?

2 Invite your colleague to reinterpret problematic incidents in the original unhelpful story in ways that are consistent with the helpful story:

How can you make sense of {key unhelpful event} in ways that are consistent with {new helpful story name}?

3 Invite your colleague to plan to create more supportive evidence for the new, helpful story in the future:

What can you plan to do (or stop doing) to strengthen {new helpful story name}?

What else?

4 Suggest that your colleague identify people who will not be surprised by the new helpful story, to demonstrate that it is already partially in existence, and wholly plausible: Who will not be surprised by {new helpful story name}?

Why is that?

5 Suggest that your colleague document her progress, to strengthen the accumulating evidence in support of the new helpful story:

How will you record things that support {new helpful story name}?

How will you record what you learn as you progress?

6 Suggest that your colleague celebrate successes that contribute to the growth of the helpful story:

How will you notice and celebrate your successes as you make {new helpful story name} come true?

Who will you share your successes and your celebrations with?


I will be fascinated to hear of your experience with this: please leave any comments or questions in the comments box.

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