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“The story I am telling myself is…”

This is a great way to start a hard conversation.

It puts the other person at ease and assures them we recognize that we can’t see the whole picture, that we can only guess at their intentions, or their feelings, or their experience.

You are not the problem, you are not to blame. My brain made up a narrative that is likely untrue. I would love it if you could help me set it straight.

Occasionally our instincts are right, and the story we tell ourselves turns out to be true.

More often, we weave stories out of our insecurity and assumptions, with just enough truth to make them believable.

Recognize this, we can avoid acting rashly, and give the person a chance to correct the story.