INTERNAL COMMUNICATION – All That Self-Talk: Helpful or Harmful?


Okay, so I talk to myself – who doesn’t?  That little voice in your head keeps a running dialogue with you pretty much every waking hour.  It reads to you while you’re reading, it comments to you when you’re visually assessing something, it can even keep you awake when you’re trying to shut it down and go to sleep.

I know I’m not the only one that lies in bed some nights and can’t stop my little voice from saying, “okay tomorrow is a big day – it’s important to get some decent rest – just fall asleep right now to get a good solid 7 hours – so stop dwelling on thoughts about all the things that need to get done – valuable sleeping time is being

wasted – great!  now it’s down to 6 1/2 hours of sleep –  stop checking the clock, which is just making things worse – go to sleep… go to sleep…- stop thinking and go to sleep right now– stop reviewing the points of the presentation! – stop this nonsense and get some rest already – now it’s down to just 5 1/2 hours of sleep – what a basketcase I’ll be without proper rest, so fall asleep  already – but nooooo,  just lying here – stop thinking already! – go to sleep… go to sleep… go to sleep… now down to 5 hrs… go to sleep already!”

Is it a losing battle talking to ourselves?  Does it do more harm (i.e. keeps us procrastinating) – or more good (i.e. saves us from making a mistake, with some extra thought)?  The truth is, our inner voice is capable of doing both good and harm, with the determining factor being the words that we use when we talk to ourselves.  We have all the control over the words in our head but we don’t always choose to exercise that control.

When we talk to ourselves positively, it is very motivating to the brain to fulfill the positive outcome expressed.  Negative talk takes two forms: a scolding and the absence of clear direction for the brain to work on.  “I should work out more”, “once again I forgot to [pick up milk on the way home]“, “somehow I keep putting off starting that project” are  unhelpful admonitions that we heap on ourselves, with little positive results.  Other examples of negative talk are: “I want to stop smoking“, “I want to lose weight“, “I need to get more sleep at night” which all lack a command for action for the brain to implement.

If we really want something to happen our self-communication should be worded in the positive about the results we want to see happen.  If we want to exercise more, “I should exercise more” whether spoken aloud or guiltily in your head, isn’t going to get you there; it’s just going to make you feel guilty about yet again not exercising.  “I will be more fit and trim by exercising now” is a much stronger motivator.  Just like, “I want to lose 10 pounds” is not strong enough to get a diet started and maintained.  Rather, “When I step on the scale tomorrow morning, I will see it inching closer to [120] pounds” is more likely to keep you from taking that second serving of dessert.  [A written plan of action is the very best method of goal attainment but for now we’re just focusing on self-talk.]

COMMUNICATION TAKEAWAY:  We don’t think enough about our own communication with ourselves, how we can choose to control that communication, and the deep self-destructive implications that internal communication has on our behavior when it is outright negative, or when it is lacking clear positive direction.

QUESTION:  How is your own internal voice sabotaging your efforts? 

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