February 2016

Your Inner Dialogue

Maximizing the Value of your Self-Talk

We all talk to ourselves. Face it, most of us have pretty negative self-talk to boot. This month's focus is on maximizing the value of your self-talk so you use it for your own benefit.

Let's see what happens with Sally and Donna and how their self-talk affects them.

The last we saw of Sally, she huffed out of The Perfect Position, frustrated that she was waiting for James. Though she didn't have an appointment scheduled, her tolerance for waiting was negligible. She was feeling pretty down on herself and hopeless about her situation. She assumed that James will not be able to find anything for her based on her supposition that the word has gotten out that she's a quitter and a loser.

Sally exits the building and slips into the bar down the street. She orders the stiff drink she alluded to when John offered her tea or coffee earlier. While she's waiting, she pulls out her smartphone and flips through emails.

“Geesh, nothing interesting. Nobody even knows I've quit and am adrift. How depressing is this?!” she mutters out loud.

“What was it you said?” the bartender asks. “Did you want something else?”

“No,” Sally retorts. “I'm just a loon talking to myself.”

“No worries,” the bartender replies. “I'm used to loons talking to themselves. Be my guest.”

Sally sips her drink and starts drumming her fingers on the counter.

“Wow, you are a loser,” the voice in Sally's head says quite loudly.

“That's for sure. And nobody wants you either,” another voice in Sally's head answers. [This character is Poor Pitiful Pearl, the one who goes into victim easily.]

“Just stop it. That kind of talk is not going to get you any place good and you know it,” a third character responds. [The angel is quite vehement in her retort.]

“Oh, get out of here. You aren't any help now. You can't find a job for me. What good are you!” says a fourth character. [This is Scrooge, the bah, humbug character who doesn't want help, who thinks nobody will understand anyway.]

“Those people at Future Space are morons anyway. I'm glad to be out of there.” says a fifth character. [This Sour Grapes character is like the fox in Aesop's fables when he couldn't reach the grapes; I didn't want them anyway. Though this character is attempting to make Sally feel better, it is coming from a defensive position and will not really help get her on her feet.]

Sally orders another drink. She waits impatiently. The bartender starts joking around with her but she'll have none of it.

“You don't know what I'm going through so just leave me alone!” she demands.

“Hey, I'm sorry. I didn't mean any harm. Just trying to cheer you up,” the bartender backpedals.

“Don't bother!” Sally huffs.

“See, you are such a loser that even this jerky bartender is trying to help. You're right about James not being able to find anything for you. He hasn't even called you,” says another character in Sally's head.

“Oh stop. I turned my phone off so I don't even know if he tried to call,” Sally mutters out loud. Sally looks at her phone and sees that a call came in from James 15 minutes earlier. She listens to the voice mail.

“Sally, John just told me that you got frustrated with how long you were here. I'm so sorry. If you're nearby and can meet me before lunch, I'll be free at noon. If that doesn't work, how is 9am tomorrow morning? So sorry that I wasn't available when you arrived,” James message ends. Sally gulps down the rest of her drink, pays, and leaves.

“Now I know he doesn't have anything for me. His voice mail proves it. If he did, he would have said something about it. I'm sunk,” Sally mutters out loud as she walks to her car.

“You don't know that he doesn't have anything for you. That's your fear speaking,” the angel character responds. [The angel again is trying desperately to help Sally but has little power over her now.]

“What do you know? I know James enough that if he had something, he would have said, 'I have good news for you. I can't wait to tell you about this great company.' The fact that he didn't means, for sure, that he has nothing. Which proves that you are a loser,” says another voice.

Sally gets into her car and before starting the engine sits there with her eyes shut, shaking her head back and forth in disbelief.

“I can't believe that this is what my life has become. What will happen to me now?” she says out loud.

Sally opens her eyes, turns on the car and starts driving without a destination in mind.

We left Donna after a brief chat with her supervisor, Lorin. Both women talked about how hard they used to be on themselves before doing the leadership training at Future Space. Both admitted to being Type A personalities and attributed their self-criticalness to that. For each of them, they found a way to achieve excellence without the self-flagellation and pathological perfectionism. Their conversation ended with Lorin asking if there was any follow-up from Donna's conversation with Sally. Apparently, Rahul, the COO of Future Space, had heard that Donna spoke with Sally before her departure and wanted to know if anything came of it. After finding out that Donna did not have any information to add, Lorin returned to her office, leaving Donna to return to her reverie.

Donna stares out the window for another minute, enjoying the peace and quiet.

“Wow,” she thinks to herself. “I am one lucky woman. I can't quite believe that I have such a great job, a great boss, so many opportunities, great people on my team...I just feel like the luckiest person in the world.”

“And Donna, you deserve it. You've worked hard to get to this place in yourself. This didn't just 'happen' to you. You've earned it. You deserve to celebrate.”

“Well, now let's not get carried away. I know I've worked hard but it isn't such a great achievement.”

“Yes, it is. You used to worry a lot and now you don't. Now, when you start feeling anxious, you plan. That's a lot more constructive than worrying. And now, when something doesn't go well, you pause, quiet your nervous system and go into creative problem solving. That's miles away from what you used to do. That is something to take credit for.”

“Okay, okay. You're right. I am a lot happier now as a result of you. I'm able to take credit for myself and the wonderful thing is that it hasn't made me conceited at all. I actually feel more humble than ever. It's helped me to feel happier and the truth is, I enjoy everything more. I really feel blessed.”

“That a girl. That's what I like to hear. You deserve to feel good and the neat thing is, you are helping others around you to feel good. You rock.”

“Yeah, I do feel good. Okay, now it's time to sit down and work. Enough of this musing.”

Donna looks out at the beautiful view, lets a sigh of contentment out, and sits down at the computer.

It is crystal clear that Sally's self-talk makes it more difficult for her to mobilize herself. She is caught in the vortex of her traitor voices. Her angel voices are still too weak to get her out of the dark pit she falls into.

Donna, who knows how treacherous that dark pit is, having been there for many years, is happy to be on the other side. She's done her homework and has developed a strong angel voice that helps her thrive. Donna is just getting to realize how her healthy self-talk is now not only yielding rewards for her but it is affecting those around her positively.

If anyone wants evidence of the return on investment that comes from learning how to develop positive self-talk and how to use your inner characters well, Donna is a great example. If only she could have gotten Sally to attend the Authentic Leadership courses at Rewire Leadership Institute®. Ah well, perhaps Sally will get another opportunity and be ready for it.

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