The danger of a single story

Our lives are saturated by stories in which we play a part. In the words of Roger Simon: “The stories we tell, the narratives that give coherence and meaning to our lives, set the terms within which we are able to formulate the possibilities of existence” (1992:60). Coaching can invite people to find a deeper presencing in the stories they tell about themselves. In October, 2009, a talk by Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Adichie was posted on the website.

The Danger of A Single Story – Chimamanda Adichie

In this brief presentation, entitled ‘The danger of a single story’, Adichie addressed our vulnerability in the face of stories. In particular, she addressed the power of “single stories” – stories that masquerade as the final truth about people and their lives. Adichie spoke of the stories that represented Africa as “a place of negatives, of difference, of darkness”, a place of human catastrophe. “To insist on only these negative stories,” she said, is to flatten my experience and to overlook the many other stories that formed me” (Adichie 2009).

Coaching allows us to invite people to get unstuck from their own Single Stories, to move away from those stories that allow us to represent ourselves as a “place of negatives, of difference, of darkness”. With ill-fitting stories we distance ourselves from ourselves, and we feel this to be true, while frequently also denying this to be the case. An acknowledgement of flattened and flattening stories through coaching dialogue gives rise to the hopefulness of recalibration, as we come to a greater awaress of the ability of the stories we tell about ourselves to awaken our deepest possibilities and invoke the shimmer of the ordinarily extraordinarily.


Chimamanda Adichie. 2009. “The danger of a single story.” October 2009.
URL: (accessed 25th July, 2013).

Roger I. Simon. 1992. Teaching against the grain : texts for a pedagogy of possibility. New York: Bergin &​ Garvey