Life is backstory

“That’s only the tip of the iceberg,” is what we say when we want our hearers to know the challenge, problem, or opportunity is deeper, more expansive, more significant than what we see. In human interaction, what we SEE—skin color, clothes, grooming, posture, and facial expression—are only the tip of the iceberg of who a person actually is.

Just like most of an iceberg is hidden, so a human being’s backstory is out-of-sight. If you wanted to see the rest of the iceberg, you’d have to do a deep dive underneath the water (which would be very cold, I presume). You’d have to do some research, get special gear, probably make more than one trip to berg, and in general, make a serious investment.

If you want to see a human’s backstory, you’ll have to make a serious investment, too. However, you can get started right away by making a determined choice to pause before you make those snap judgements about what you see in others. Instead, run what you think about what you see through the backstory filter by reminding yourself, “There’s more to this story.” Then, temper your words and actions with compassion.

For companies, it means valuing the backstory by making a commitment to listen, explore, and discover your customers’ backstories—asking where were they before the discovered you, understanding what fears, hopes, dreams, and goals are, discovering what fuels their imaginations and actions.

When you take the time to value another’s backstory, you gain insight into why people do what they do. You’ll be better prepared to actually help them do what they want to do.

What’s your customer’s backstory? What’s yours?

Trey Pennington

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