Fact vs. Fiction: 3 Ways to Determine the Difference

person replacing cubes spelling 'fake' with 'fact'

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Some people’s brains function like a sandstorm. Let me explain. Often when I am coaching someone through an issue, the first thing I try to do is ask them to separate the fact from the story. Let’s discuss the difference between the two.

What is a fact? A fact is an actual occurrence – something that can be proven through observation or measurement.

How are facts different from stories? Stories are judgements, conclusions, and attributions that we make from the facts.

When separating facts from stories, remember these three things:
1. Judgements determine whether facts are good or bad.
2. Conclusions help us fit elements together.
3. Attribution tells us why people do what they do.

The truth is that we all get stuck in our thinking about people and situations because of the story we tell ourselves. Once you separate the facts from stories, you realize the same facts could be used to tell an infinite number of stories.

When using this exercise with my clients – I ask them to create two columns. In these two columns I have the client separate what was a fact and what was the story in their situation. This leads them to have several “ahhh haaa” moments about the situation.

I typically see the following things happen:

1. They uncover that they have very few facts.
2. They uncover that they have filled in the “gap” of facts with stories.
3. They become curious about the facts.
4. They realize that they need to ask more questions.
5. They uncover that most of the stories came from previous experiences unrelated to this incident.

From here, a person can retrace their path back to the facts and uncover the rest of the information. A coach can help someone retrace their path, correct their sandstorm and try to help piece together the rest of the story.


Let us know if you need help getting out of this downward spiral. You can reach us at humanpotentialadvisors.com!

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