And what is your story? by guest blogger selen elgin

I have the pleasure to write to you in this blog entry about a topic, I recently discovered and which gets me pretty excited: the role of narrative in our lives and narrative coaching…

I have to say I am pretty excited about contributing to a blog in the first place. In general, trying out, learning about new things gets me excited. That has always been like that. I guess, that’s why learning a new language has always been exhilarating to me, not only you learn the language itself but it opens you the door to a whole new universe of different cultures, ways of expressing oneself, painting new pictures in the words of that language. And telling stories… Sad ones, happy ones, funny ones, the stories of others or stories of your own...Stories connect us to each other.

So, as we haven’t met before, let me take the opportunity to tell you a little about my story: I was born and raised in the magical city of Istanbul in Turkey. When it came to choosing the place to study, it was a “no-brainer” for me to grasp the opportunity to go to Vienna even if it meant leaving a city and people I loved so much. (Remember, new things get me excited…). After finishing my studies in Vienna, I chose to go into consulting, a business, in which you travel a lot, constantly meet new people, and handle new topics in each project. I loved being an active part of a change process. And that’s also how I came to coaching… And my journey continues.

Above, I told you one little story about me, connecting some important steps in my life and why they make sense for me as a person. Because that’s what, we human beings, do:

We structure the different events in our lives, our experiences, and interactions with others through time and create narratives around them to construct meaning and a certain coherence in our lives. We also use and re-use these narratives to communicate with others about us.

We each have our “little” and “big” stories and tell them in our own ways, weaving a web of “us”, our environments, our friends and families, our histories, our cultures, our values in these stories.

Can you think of any of your stories? Can you place them in the big picture of “you”?

The process of creating our narrative happens more or less unconsciously. Once a narrative is formed around our dominant stories and linked with a certain conduct, our brain gets rather picky regarding the incorporation of experiences and events to follow into the existing dominant story. Meaning, with time, unconsciously, only those events and experiences are selected and incorporated into the narrative, that strengthen the dominant story and others are more or less ignored. Not forgotten but ignored…until new experiences come and cause a breach in the dominant story. In these cases, the adaptive nature of our brain makes alternative stories emerge. This way, the narrative of a person or an organization constantly changes.

But what happens when our narratives do not serve us well anymore? What happens, if (and when) we feel like we are stuck within our own story? We might even look at our past experiences and don’t see much to help us there.

We are all resourceful. But sometimes we are hindered to tap into our own resources. Remember those experiences or alternative stories that our brain had conveniently put aside, because they were of small or no use to the narrative at that time? That’s the time to seek them, find them and re-consider them. Along the road, you might end up adapting or strengthening your narrative or even re-authoring it completely, thus, it will serve you better.

But first you must discover and understand your narrative: How you incorporated your experiences into it? What meaning it makes for you? How your conduct is formed around your narrative?

Although the emergence of the narrative happens mostly unconsciously, understanding it in depth in order to (maybe) change it, is a process that needs to happen “consciously” and involve you as a whole person. And that’s what narrative coaching is about…


Selen Elgin, Strategy consultant and Executive coach