The book is always better than the film when the book is read first because the story we see played out on screen is not how we imagined it in our heads. Alfred Hitchcock, in the early days of movies, mastered suspense by leading audiences to the moment of terror but letting most of it happen off screen in the mind of the viewer. Each of us could have our own version of what happened.
It happens in the void, in the space between, the pause. And because our brains are still wired at their core to scan the surrounding for threats, if what precedes the void triggers fear, anxiety, worry, we often fill the void with negative stories and emotion.
So in our change projects, when we announce change (often an anxiety creating event) such as a restructure or that we are exploring new options for a process, but then do not provide a positive narrative or address the questions of identity it raises, our team members will often fill the void of information with a story that fits the narrative in their head. Given that the emotions preceding the void were negative (anxiety), the created story will likely be negative.
For change makers we need to recognise this will happen, we need to expect it. Ideally, we are creating spaces in our teams where people can share the stories they are creating in their heads. This does two things. First speaking out our fears often reduces their power. Second, by hearing the stories, we understand more of where our team is at and can help provide a different story, a different perspective. If we don’t address the stories during the process, we will have address them when we implement the change.
We are all storytellers – it is how our brains make sense of information. But not all stories are true. As Brené Brown says, we are all conspiracy theorists and when we have gaps in information we often will fill the gaps with stories deriving from our fears and insecurities. This will likely lead to the change we don’t want to see.