This informal CPD article CIPD – The Power & Threat of Self-Talk was provided by Chris Hatfield, Founder & Coach at Sales Psyche, who works with sales reps, managers and commercial teams to help improve & support their mental health, wellbeing and sales performance.
Do any of these statements sound like something that’s crossed your mind this month?
“I’m not going to have a good day”
“I’ve done something to annoy the customer”
“I don’t think I’m going to pass probation”
“It’s only a matter of time before they realise I’m not right for this role”
This is our self-talk, our chatter, feeding us these statements, that really aren’t helping at all. They’re probably not just impacting your performance, but also your mental wellbeing, happiness and day to day life.
Our minds are a noisy place. Did you know that on average normal speech out loud is 100-150 words per minute, but our self-talk comes at 800-1400 words per minute. That’s a lot of noise!
Letting that self-talk run riot in your mind can cause a lot of problems and stress. It’s something that really impacted me when I first started out in my career, which really triggered my anxiety.
This negative chatter created a self-fulfilling prophecy as it meant I lost focus on my role, began to accept my fate and didn’t really try and challenge it.
But the thing is, it can be challenged, it can be reframed, it can be something to serve, not sabotage you.
There’s so many things that have helped me do this and I could fill a book of them (which I probably will one day), but for now here’s something to mull over and start putting into practice.
Build the defence in the courtroom
Imagine your mind is like a courtroom and your brain’s default setting is the prosecution; constantly thinking of the worst case scenario, trying to provide all the scenarios to tell you why to believe it. Typically we just buy into that, but what we do over time is begin to build a defence in that courtroom, one to challenge the prosecution and the way to do this, is asking yourself 3 questions when faced with your negative self-talk.
1) Where is the evidence?
2) What else could be true here?
3) What are 1-2 things I can do to tackle this thought?
#1 allows you to challenge your thoughts and look for proof, which often there isn’t any e.g. This demo isn’t going to go well; why, where is the evidence to say it won’t?
#2 supports you in changing your perspective, avoiding a blinkered approach and looking at other possibilities e.g. I’ve done something to annoy the prospect; well they could actually just be really busy with their role/ this is a small part of what they’re working on, so it’s not going to be top of their list today.
#3 encourages you to proactively tackle your thought, rather than just play the negative outcome of the story it’s telling you. E.g. If I’m thinking “I’m not going to pass probation”, rather than just dwelling on that, which will probably cause me not to, because I’ll lose focus and accept my fate, I can reframe it to “What are the main reasons I think that?” and then “What are 1-2 things I can do to work on that?” - I have then used that thought to benefit me, to start working on those aspects, which without that thought, I may have not focused on.
So there you have it, a little bit about the impact of our self-talk and the tools we can use to begin to reframe it and allow it to serve, not sabotage us. Remember, you’re going to be with yourself for the rest of your life, so the conversation you have with yourself is vital, it sets the tone for every other conversation you have in life.
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