In the case for effective communication, it is important to recognize and appreciate that every single individual you will ever interact with has a backstory. A backstory is background information about a real person or thing that promotes fuller understanding of it. In his book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”, author Steven Covey lists the following as one of the habits: Seek first to understand, then to be understood. If we all have that approach when we communicate with others, it will make for clearer communication and better outcomes.
I once remember having a conversation with two colleagues in the office and because I did not know the backstory of the other people in the room, I was very much tempted to be defensive and judgemental of their opinions and their ways or reasoning. I am glad I did not, because when they eventually got to share their backstories during that meeting, I became empathetic and more accepting.
Getting to know their backstories helped me show more compassion and be more loving. Next time you interact with someone and you are tempted to “lose it”, remember they have a backstory and their position might be an evolution over years, or a combination of several factors. Knowing someone’s backstory is the first step to understanding them better, and thus to be understood.
What is your backstory, and how will that help someone understand you better?