Watch How You Talk To Yourself

We can be our own worst enemy at times.

Whether we say the words out loud or not, we are always talking to ourselves.

Copyright 2015 Dollar Photo Club by aleutie
Copyright 2015 Dollar Photo Club by aleutie

Just as guard rails can prevent drivers from running off of the road, setting up guidelines for your thoughts can make your self-talk an advantage – not a limiter.

In his book, Personal Effectiveness in Project Management, Zachary Wong, PhD, suggests the following mental techniques to use to keep your self-talk positive:

  1. Keep It Real.  Or as he explains it later – keep small things small in your mind.  Earlier in my career, the smallest mistakes I made were things that I brooded over.  Brooding over what you’ve done wrong has the same impact as a hen brooding over her eggs: they grow.  Instead of acknowledging the problem and moving on, you turn it into something that hangs over your next decision and the next.
  2. Keep your boat afloat.  To me this made the most sense.  You are bombarded daily with requests, complaints, and escalations.  To stay positive – you need stay level-headed, “keep both feet on the deck and don’t jump ship – trust your inner dialogue.”  So much of the noise you hear is made to push you off your center so you act out of character or without thinking.  Stay focused.
  3. Maintain a ‘want’ state of mind. This is part of Dr Wong’s larger argument in his book that you understand your motivations and wants.  You come from a larger space when you are motivated by your wants and not your needs.  Define what it is that you want to see happen and act from that basis.
  4. Stay open-minded.  So many conflicts tend to come from people hanging onto rigid views about ideas or situations.  His suggestion is to stay open by making observations, not judgments; “focus on the process, not the outcome, create options, not predictions.”  Coming into a meeting with a fixed idea of how things should turn now, may not be as effective as staying open to how the discussion flows in the meeting.
  5. Make Your First Thought Positive.  Here is where I tend to fall down.  It’s good to be proactive about self-improvement and trying to do better next time, but you need give yourself a break.  It will feel better if you focus on the things you did right – first.  What did you like or what went well this time? Then you can tweak the areas where you need to improve.
  6. LIGHTEN UP.  Unrelenting focus on always doing the right thing or making the right decision can be exhausting.  Throw in a little fun and keep your sense of humor.  As he writes, “Enjoy your imperfections – it’s all part of being human.”

Do you have any other suggestions on how to keep your self-talk from tearing at your self-confidence?  Leave a comment or send me a tweet, my id is jgodfrey.

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