I have long claimed that one truly is well on their way to becoming a mature professional, when they can readily spot unreliable narrators.
An unreliable narrator is usually someone in literature, film, or theatre whose credibility – or at even, perceptions and perspective – is compromised. In actual real life, we’re all unreliable narrators; our attitudes and perspectives are constricted to our limited – and biased – personal experience.
Unreliable narrators are generally not deceitful or deceptive. But, their opinions and internal dialogs are informed by incomplete information, past experience extrapolated inappropriately, and, sometimes – by pure naiveté.
And, because someone is an unreliable narrator in one regard, doesn’t mean that they aren’t reliable sources in every other area.
So – how do you know when you’re dealing with an unreliable narrator?
The best advice that I can give is: trust your own direct experience, over the related experiences of others. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take advice from others – only that your direct observations and experiences should trump all else.
You should also corroborate others’ experiences and perceptions against those of the person you think may be an unreliable narrator. If their experience squares with yours, odds are you’ve got a handle on the actual facts on the ground, and can either accept – or discount – the narrative coming from an initially suspect source.
Ultimately, time and experience will allow you to hone your skills at identifying bias, and impaired opinion.
We’re all unreliable narrators – at least to someone. Be objective, transparent, and authentic in your interactions with others, to minimize your bias.
Go, and be you.