Is Self-Talk Stopping You And Your Team From Performing?

Self-talk is the conversation that goes on in your mind about your performance and behavior.

Your self-talk is built by your thoughts. Apparently we each have 50,000 thoughts per day. (Who is it that measures these things??) Unfortunately for many people the vast majority of those 50,000 are repetitive, negative thoughts - focused on the things you should have done, things that went wrong, how you aren't good enough etc.

Each conversation that you have with yourself reinforces in your mind who you are and what you are capable of and, most critically, builds or demolishes your self-esteem and self-worth. So, what?

Here's so what! The higher your sense of self-worth and self-esteem the better able you are to cope with challenges and upsets, you'll go after bigger the goals - you'll dream bigger and believe you've got a good chance at achieving those dreams.

If your self talk is filled with self-doubt and criticism you are unable to see the best and bring out the best in yourself or those around you.

As you can see from the diagram below there is a self-perpetuating cycle which occurs. The degree of your self-acceptance and self-approval dictates the type of conversations you have with yourself. Your inner conversation strengthens your self-worth and consequently governs your performance.

self-talk and performance

Have you ever done something wrong and then played it over and over in your mind? "How could I have been so stupid, why didn't I keep quiet, why didn't I say ..." Well, that's your self-talk in action. And, the problem is we often times don't just repeat it once or twice, we go on and on for weeks repeating that same conversation in our head.

As we are doing this, we are recording the event like it is happening again. And, as we dwell on the negative this builds a belief of 'how we are' in that situation. (I bet you've heard yourself say, "Yeah, I can't help that, it's just how I am!")

If we paint a clear enough picture, fill it with emotion then we end up with reality If we paint a clear enough picture, fill it with emotion then we end up with reality. That's a formula for you:

Vivid Picture + Intense Emotion = Reality

Control your self talk so that it is constructive, uplifting, enriching and enhances your belief about what you can do. When your performance/results are less than you would like, you can set yourself up for future success by changing the conversation in your mind about that event.

Don't focus on your limitations or dwell on your fears. Put your energy on focusing on what you do want and who you do want to be.

What To Do When You Make A Mistake

When you recognize you have made a mistake and your performance is less than you would like, your next, critical, step is to address the issue in a 'charge neutral' way - that is just state it like a fact - no judgment or criticism. This one simple technique is guaranteed to improve your personal power and performance enormously.

Train yourself to look at situations and experiences with a very pragmatic view. Instead of berating yourself for messing 'IT' up, try to accept what you have done (or not done) and ask yourself "What am I going to do differently next time?" This doesn't mean that you ignore your faults or problems, but that you focus on improving them and getting better results.

Do not under-estimate the power your inner mind has over your performance.

You can download the "The Four Agreements" video and article at the Make A Dent Club and discover the tips you need to control your inner mind-chatter.

Your Belief About Yourself and Your Self Talk Grow From A Very Young Age

When you were younger you would have been strongly influenced by the way people around you spoke to you and about you. Because they had the 'power' you would have absorbed and probably agreed with the messages/beliefs they gave you.

If you were surrounded by people with a high self-esteem and self-worth your regular messages would have been:

  • "Aren't you wonderful"
  • "Look at what you can do ..."
  • "You can do whatever you want"

Whereas, if people with low self-esteem and low self-worth surrounded you, the messages you regularly received would have been something along the lines of:

  • "You are a bad child"
  • "You are no good at ..."
  • "You will never amount to much"

When you were little it was hard to not believe those messages. But guess what? Now you're an adult you have the opportunity to reclaim your power. It is now up to you to decide if the messages others are sending you are helpful or not. It is up to you to decide whether 'they' are going to 'keep doing a number on your success'.

If you are unfortunate enough to have someone around you who, because of their own low self-esteem puts you down, it is up to you to make the decision whether to accept or reject their opinion. This doesn't mean ignore all feedback - this is about being discerning about whether this is the 'truth' or whether it is someone else's self-worth talking to you.

You don't necessarily have to stand up to that person. It is the conversation that you hold within your mind that is critical. (Of course, as your self-confidence and self-worth builds you will find that you will start to stand up for yourself out-loud as well as internally.)

So How Do You Control Your Self-talk?

The process itself is actually quite easy; however, it does take discipline. There are four tools that will help you shift your thinking and when you share them with others will help them too.
  1. Affirmations
  2. Visualization
  3. Catching Your Thoughts
  4. Changing Your World View - Optimism vs Pessimism

True success occurs when you feel great on the inside - when your beliefs and thoughts are aligned with your highest good. The more you fill yourself with love, acceptance and appreciation the more you can be a positive energy for yourself and those around you.

Organizational Self-Talk

Organizations too have self-talk. Listen to the way people talk as they stand around the coffee machine or lunch area. What are their conversations about? Are they positive and uplifting or ripping and tearing - at each other, other departments, managers etc.

Organizations' such as Southwest Airlines, Virgin, Flight Centre, The Body Shop, each have very positive self-talk - one of the reasons that they are some of the most sought after companies in the world, by prospective employees.

Organizations such as these seem to be able to consistently win - whether you are talking about profits or service or the way employees feel about their business. These are not coincidences - these businesses are successful because of the way people within them talk and feel.

Contrast that with organizations that you know that vibrate very negative energy. Are they the sort of companies that you want to work in? Are they successful?

Many of the people who surround you do not understand the impact of their inner mind chatter on their performance. One of the greatest gifts you can give to others is to help them build their own sense of self-worth, through calling attention to any patterns of negative self-talk that you hear them saying about themselves.

For example, say you hear a colleague saying

"I'm so completely hopeless at that, I never get it right".

You could provide powerful leadership by saying something like

"Maybe this isn't one of your strength areas right now, but completely hopeless is probably a bit strong. Look you got this part of it right ... how could you improve on it next time round?"

As with your own self-talk it is a matter of stopping the negative and turning it into positive. Quickly negate negative self-talk, and move it to a focus on where you want to head on how to 'make this a better place to be'.

As a Leader it is up to you to say things like: "You know, that is how we used to be, but now we are ......"

This doesn't mean ignore problems and be pollyannerish, what it does mean is to not permit whingeing and whining, which doesn't move anything or anyone forward. If you shy away from doing this you'll wind up with a team that falls into learned helplessness ... and you're the one to blame!

As a leader it is your obligation to hold a strong vision of the future, not of the past. The past is gone, get over it - there is nothing you can do about the past, the only thing you can do is to focus on where you are heading. When you hear people whining and being negative, then step in and say "Stop that, we are better than that" then get them focused on what they can do to improve the situation.

If you, the Leader, doesn't/can't/isn't focused upon improving your organization's self-talk then who will?

Growth Opportunity

  1. Keep a note of the quality of the self-talk in your mind - is it positive and uplifting or are you dragging yourself down?
  2. When is your self-talk more likely to be negative/self-defeating?
  3. What impact is the self-defeating self-talk having on your life?
  4. What is the self-talk like in your organization - are people working to support each other and build each other up, or are they more inclined to put each other down?
  5. How does the self-talk in your organization make people feel?
  6. What could you do to have an impact on keeping the self-talk in your department moving toward your goals?

In this video Brene Brown discusses Shame and its impact on your life. Its thought-provoking and life-enhancing and very much relates to this concept of self-talk.

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