Stories show us what’s underneath the surface of our everyday realities and reflect the common threads and emotions that connect us all. That universality is what makes readers and watchers relate to the story being told. And it’s what helps the audience to make sense of their own similar experiences through the story.
But how do great writers get to that level of resonance? Well, they have a secret superpower that grants them the ability to invent complex characters, plot-relevant storylines and stay open to possibility. It’s perspective – and it’s a power that you can activate and hone over time.
The following tips will help you to think like a writer and enhance your own perspective at work:
Strive to be an open-minded, non-judgmental, uber-observer of human nature. Writers are always on the hunt for a full-spectrum view uncovering what’s behind the velvet rope. They are drawn to complexity; they innately understand that choices are rarely either-or, characters are rarely this-or-that and situations are rarely all good or all bad. For writers to discover what’s most interesting and true, they must stay open to possibility. And to create the most interesting story, objective writers realize – and anticipate – the unintended consequences of even the best decisions. That mindset can optimize your performance at work.
Strive to be a person who defines themselves versus letting others define you. This is the work all of us must do on our own character journeys to become our most evolved selves. To best own your narrative at work, be substantive in the face of our superficial, quick-hit, social-media-driven world. Develop a philosophical perspective built upon your curiosity and independent thinking. Your goals: always seek deeper meaning over just scratching the surface and always avoid the lure of what everyone else is saying or doing. As an independently-minded person with substance, your views will be heeded more readily, which helps you to get your ideas across and get ahead.
Strive to understand the POV – or point-of-view – of the characters in your work story. You may have a storyline in your head that you believe is factual, but someone else’s perspective may present an entirely different POV that can help you see an event, circumstance or yourself in a completely new way.
And when you’re empathetic, you’ll see that everyone around you will show you who they are over time. They won’t tell you (and, if they continually tell you who they are, be suspicious). Pay attention to clues as you tune in closely to your co-worker’s traits and temperaments, actions and reactions and what they tell you about their character. Not only will what you discover enlighten you, but it will empower you to act and react in ways that will improve your results.
Strive to elevate your capacity to recognize fact from fiction and determine what is worthy of your attention and what is not. To writers, being discerning means deep diving to get at the truth of something rather than skimming the surface. And it also means then articulating what they believe with clarity.
Great writers know that there’s always more to the story – part of the iceberg is always hidden below the surface, the whole truth is rarely evident and the true meaning of events is often not readily apparent. Make sure you look hard, read between the lines and look behind the scenes to best decipher the real story. Listen more to what is unsaid than said. Attempt to be an impartial spectator or a wry bystander – just like a writer would.
And because the whole truth is rarely evident, realize that signals easily can be misunderstood. A story that you initially perceive as fact may actually be incorrect, just as a story that you imagine to be true may live only in your mind and might not be true at all. Be willing to give someone the benefit of the doubt, and just like a writer, strive to be a non-judgmental, uber-observer.
Do this one thing today:
With perspective in mind, play a game in your mind at your next meeting. Pretend that you are each person around the table and summarize what happened in the meeting from their viewpoint:
- How did they feel about the co-workers around the table or on the call?
- Did the meeting go as they had planned and are they happy with the outcome?
- Did they want to shine, and did they succeed or fail?
The insights you glean by getting inside their heads can help you act and react more effectively down the road.
Interested in becoming a Featured Contributor? Email topics you’re interested in covering for GovLoop to [email protected]. And to read more from our Spring 2021 Cohort, here is a full list of every Featured Contributor during this cohort.
Deborah Burns’ story has always been about invention and reinvention. She’s lived those two keywords throughout her career as a women’s media Chief Innovation Officer (CIO), a leader of brands like ELLE Décor and Metropolitan Home, an industry consultant and throughout a creative pivot that led to the award-winning memoir, “Saturday’s Child.”
The experience of becoming an author illuminated the path to her second book, “Authorize It! Think Like a Writer to Win at Work & Life.” Now, Deborah combines her business and creative expertise in professional development workshops that improve outcomes and help everyone invent, reinvent and live up to their career potential.