Talking Back: You Get to Choose How to Respond to Self Talk

Self talk.  We all do it, though some of us don’t really like to admit to it.

Self talk doesn’t necessarily mean talking out loud to oneself, but it can show up that way.  Instead, by self talk, I’m referring to what we find ourselves saying which results in self-limiting behavior.  Phrases like “I can’t”, or “I don’t” or “I’m not the kind of person who does ___________” don’t exactly do much to encourage forward movement, expand one’s perspective or encourage one to move outside of his or her comfort zone and grow.   Over the years, I’ve become aware that this sort of self talk is common for many of my clients, especially those who are chronically disorganized or struggle with ADHD.

Self talk is typically cultivated over a lifetime of frustrations and failures. Coaching can make a real difference when it comes to changing one’s self talk. First, in coaching, we don’t look at failures, as failures.  Instead, we look at them as opportunities to learn.  Second, in coaching, it’s the coach’s job to help you build awareness around your self talk so you can be more open to shifting into a different mindset.

Let me provide you with a simple example of building awareness around self talk and shifting into a different mindset.  This example has to do with laundry.  I don’t really mind doing laundry.  I like the sorting part (that probably doesn’t surprise you) and I don’t mind putting the clothes in the washer, or even taking the clothes out of the washer.   What I do mind is dealing with all of the items that hang dry as opposed to going in the dryer.  I REALLY dislike this part of the laundry.

Recently, when it came time to deal with this task, I caught myself saying, “This doesn’t really have to be done right now, it can wait until later.”  This is the kind of self talk that sets me up for failure.  If I respond to it with “Yeah, good idea, we’ll do this later when we’re feeling more like it”, chances are I won’t walk back into the laundry room until it’s too late and I have to rinse the load again to get rid of the many wrinkles that developed as the laundry sat drying in the basket.

That’s what could have happened.  What happened instead was I caught my self talk and reminded myself I had a choice as to how I’d respond to it.  Instead of giving in to what was easy and certainly more palatable in the present moment, I told myself this, “Hanging up the clothes stinks, but by taking 10 minutes and doing this now I won’t have to rinse these clothes again later.”  Before I had a chance to respond with any more self talk I grabbed the basket of wet clothes and trucked upstairs to hang them on the drying rack.

Being aware of my self talk and responding to it made a difference for me.  I know this a simple example, but I hope you can see how building awareness of and responding to your self talk might make a difference in your life.  I know I see what an impact choosing to respond to self talk in a different way has made in a number of my client’s lives.

Self talk happens, but you get to choose how you’re going to respond to it.  How will you choose to respond?




4 Responses to “Talking Back: You Get to Choose How to Respond to Self Talk”

  1. Ellen Delap November 15, 2013 8:07 am #

    You are on target! Our internal voices are truly our perspectives. Changing your self talk changes your perspective. Thanks for sharing!

    • Andrea Sharb November 16, 2013 2:08 pm #

      Nicely said Ellen. A prospective client shared with me yesterday that upon reading this post she realized why her home was cluttered: because her self talk would tell her she could deal with it later. Knowing this, she now has an opportunity to listen to her “internal voice” in a different way.

  2. Linda Samuels November 18, 2013 10:12 am #

    The key is really stopping to “hear” the self talk. In many instances we’ve built up years of labeling ourselves or accepting that we are a certain way. “I’m not good at math.” or “I’m not a writer.” We don’t even question the assumption. The real change becomes possible when we allow the antenna to go up. Then we have the opportunity to reframe, try on an alternative perspective, or challenge the “voice.”

    Thank you for the clarity of your post. I love how it immediately helped one of your prospective clients hear her self talk and have an “ah-ha” moment. So powerful!

    • Andrea Sharb November 18, 2013 11:52 am #

      Thanks for your comment Linda and for highlighting the importance of that pause, which is necessary to to actually hear and become aware of the self talk. Allowing the “antenna to go up” is key!

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