10 things you would never say to someone else (but it’s ok to say them to yourself…)

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Communication is a topic that comes up in my work often. It is an essential part of any business, and when that business is oneself, the methods of communication that are used become even more vital. These include interpersonal skills, presentation skills, social media skills, writing skills, and…

Self-talk.

Yes, self-talk is a form of communication, and if you’re not thinking of it as such, you’re really dismissing how you effectively work with the most important person in the entire business – the CEO. (That’s you.) I’ll go a step further and say that it’s also a major part of your business communication. If you’re constantly berating the product and the seller, how can the product shine and how can the seller confidently tell others about that product?

Unfortunately, I find this to be more common than not. It comes up so often that after hearing some of the things that people say to themselves, I can tell you how our conversation that follows goes:

“Would you say what you just said to your best friend?”

“No! Of course I would never!”

“Would you say that to someone you knew but who wasn’t necessarily a close friend, perhaps a colleague?”

“Well, no!”

“Ok but would you say that to someone you knew who perhaps you weren’t very fond of?”

“No.”

So what comes of this is the realization that the negative things that we say to ourselves are things we wouldn’t even say to people we don’t like.

Here are 10 examples of statements based on circumstances that apply to anyone. Each has two statements: one that people might say to a best friend in that situation, and one that people engaging in negative self-talk might say to themselves:

1. Didn’t win something/get something
To Friend: “It’s ok, you’ll get ‘em next time.”
To Self: “I suck.”

2. Having courage
To Friend: “Just go for it! You’ll figure it out along the way.”
To Self: “I have no idea what I’m doing.”

3. When we make a mistake
To Friend: “Hey don’t worry – nobody’s perfect.”
To Self: “This should have been perfect.”

4. On an excellent job well done
To friend: “That was brilliant!”
To Self: “It was ok I guess.”

5. When going up for approval (audition, interview, presentation, etc.)
To Friend: “I know you’ll be great!”
To Self: “I’m probably not what they’re looking for.”

6. When there’s improvement
To Friend: “I noticed you really improved on X since last time!”
To Self: “I still don’t do Y right.”

7. When something specific is pointed out
To Friend: “I really like the way you did X.”
To Self: “I really hated the way I did Y.”

8. When experiencing frustration with a new skill/task/technique
To Friend: “Learning something new takes time. You’ll get it.”
To Self: “I’m never going to get this. I can’t do this.”

9. Being overwhelmed
To Friend: “You’ve got to take some time for yourself.”
To Self: “I have to do everything and it has to be done now.”

10. When there are mixed results
To Friend: “You know, there were a lot of good things about that.”
To Self: “Why can’t I do anything right?”

If this resonates with you, it’s time to call a business meeting. It’s time to sit down with the CEO and discuss which kinds of behavior are going to be tolerated, and which aren’t. It’s time to discuss what kind of environment you want to cultivate for the business. See, it’s tough to foster an environment of negativity among the team and then expect the team to go out in public and talk about how great the company is. And when the person at the top is doing this, it really sends a mixed message about the company’s product. Are you good or not? Are you confident or not? Are you worth someone’s time or not? Should they choose you or not?

Need work on this? Here’s something you can do: print out this article, cross out every line in the examples above that are across from ‘To Self,’ and then point an arrow from the ‘To Self’ line up to the ‘To Friend’ line. Next time say that instead.

If you would never say these things to someone else, it’s time to stop saying them to yourself. It’s not helping to build the business, and if you want the business to do well you should probably jump on board with creating an environment that will allow the company (you) and the product (what you do) to prosper. Your mind is a major – and the most important – part of the work environment, and anyone who has ever worked in a place with an undesirable environment knows that it can make going to work there quite miserable. So see what happens if you start treating that CEO more like a best friend. 🙂

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