August 30, 2016 by Angus
Why you should not always “believe yourself”

Often, we have very strong beliefs about things. We create a strong narrative to back up those beliefs. Characters, plot, situations and multiple data points are amassed to build strength into that narrative. They all support the “factuality” of our narrative.

Most of the time, these types of narratives are negative in nature. We’ve talked before about how this process of injecting beliefs can start. But, today, I want to look at it in another way.

Let’s talk about how we can get caught up in a story that seems to be true.

Now each element of this kind of negative story, in and of itself, appears to be true. Obviously, when you weave all “the truths” together, you get a greater truth. Or so we believe.

Looking a bit closer at this process, something interesting is revealed. Let’s take a look.

Being sold on “truth” narratives …
Many years ago, I knew two families. Both were selling their homes. They weren’t selling at the same time, though. In fact, the first family went through the process one month before the other. I got to have conversations with the first family about their house selling process one month before the other.

This is how it went.

The first family told how they had found a wonderful real-estate agent.
“Why did you choose that agent?”, I asked.
“Because he promised us the highest sale price”, they replied. “All the other real-estate agents told us they expected the house to sell for lesser figures. That made us confident our real-estate agent was a real ‘go getter’. His confidence impressed us. So we signed with him.”

Then “truth” changes sides …
Interestingly – and perhaps predictably – a few weeks later, that real-estate called them back. He sat them down and gave them a long speech. This is how it went, more or less:
‘The market has changed, recently …
You’re going to have to dampen your expectations …
You won’t get as much for your home as we originally hoped …
If we’d sold three months ago, we certainly would have got the original price …
Things were sliding …
You’ve got to sell quickly because prices are going to slide more …’
Of course, the family was tremendously disappointed. But they trusted his judgment. They began to accept his reasoning. It was at that point the real-estate rammed home his point.

“And you have a pool …”, he went on.
“Nobody wants a pool these days. It’s a 1970s thing. People are too busy now. Maintenance is painful. Cleaning out the leaves, the clogged filter, the safety issues … After all, you only use it for a few weeks a year in summer. It takes up most of the backyard, too. You can’t use the space for anything else. It’s such a waste …”

He had every argument under the sun, it seemed. Apparently, he spun off 30 or so additional arguments. The pool appeared a “total killer” for making a good sale on their home.

Sold on narrative …
When I heard this story, I too was convinced the pool was a price “killer”. “Yes”, I thought, “pools aren’t that great. Sure, they’re not toxic waste dumps but these days, who has the time? Of course it would be an impediment to making a good sale.”

So the family, totally convinced, revised their figure substantially. Ironically, the price they accepted was far below the lowest quote they’d received from the other real-estate agents only a few weeks earlier.

Now I thought to myself some time later, if that story had stopped there, I would have been convinced. I’d spend the rest of my life warning people never to buy a house with a swimming pool.

But the story didn’t end there.

Six weeks later, I began to have a conversation with the other family about their home selling experience. Ironically, they had chosen the exact same real-estate date. The reasoning was the same, too. He had promised the highest sale price of all the real-estate agents consulted. They, too, were convinced he would “go the extra mile” to get the maximum sale price.

Predictably, the second family got the same call a few weeks later. Out came the reasons why the original expectations had to be revised. They’d have to act quick and accept a lower price.

Like the first family, they were also tremendously disappointed. They accepted the arguments, though. And then it came … the kicker. The real-estate agent followed up with this:
“You don’t have a pool”, said the real-estate agent.
“That’s a big problem around here. People don’t have the time to take the kids to the beach. Not anymore. Parking is such a pain. It costs money. Sand invades the car. It rusts. Kids get irritable. They want junk food. That’s bad for their health.”
On and on he went. Then he finished off with this “star burst”:
“People just want to walk out the back door and jump in their own pool!”

There you go. If I’d only heard that story, I’d be running around selling swimming pools. I’d be on a mission to convince every home buyer to make sure it had a swimming pool. OK, maybe not quite that extreme. But I think you get the point.

But I had a reference point to counter that reaction. I had the other story, the counter story. The scam was exposed.

Questioning your own “dodgy real-estate psychology” …
Revelation point. It dawned on me. Two detailed and complicated narratives about the same situation that can both be appear to be “the truth”.

We can also understand how two well-meaning and intelligent people can have diametrically opposed views. Changing those views would be very tough. The individual points they’d raise – the evidence they’d call upon – may actually be “all justifiable”. They just lead down very different paths.

Here’s the thing. We can apply this real-estate analogy to ourselves. It’s worth asking yourself:
“How many of these “pool” narratives about ourselves do we have?”
“How many narratives do we accept as ‘the truth’, unquestioningly?”

It’s important to consider this. Many of these negative “truth” narratives hurt our self-esteem. They drive anxiety. Stress is fed by them. Depression, avoidance and a sense of hopelessness are, in part, fertilized by them. You start feeling down. You look around for ways to repair, restore and reboot.

Ask yourself this:
“How much negativity is the result of being your own ‘dodgy real-estate agent’ with your own psychology?”

Maybe you can make it work out whether you have a “pool” or not. But then, maybe the question is better put: “Do you like to swim?”

If you’d like some professional help working through these questions, let us know.

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