Self-Talk As Part Of Leadership

Self-talk (inner speech, inner dialogue, etc) can be constructive (positive), destructive (negative), instructional, motivational, insightful or self-reflective, etc

Need to ask the following questions

- what am you saying to yourself?

- what impact is it having?

Research has shown that positive self-talk will improve performance, reduce job strain, improve job satisfaction, reduce nervousness and increase ability to lead others. In contrast, negative self-talk, like 'you can't', 'you are not good enough', 'who do you think you are?' 'why didn't you think of that?', 'it will never work anyway', etc can have the opposite impact: that is, negative comments decreases performance, etc.

"...destructive self-talk is a tendency to focus on the negative aspects of a challenging situation and to continue thinking about it long after the situation is over......focuses on obstacles..."

Rebecca Newton, 2019

Some strategies dealing with negative self-talk

i) improve emotional agility (requires recognising the patterns, labelling your thoughts and emotions, accepting them, and acting on your values and principles)

ii) acknowledge the truth and act on it (if you lack expertise, knowledge, etc in a certain area, acknowledge it and find ways to handle it, eg attend a training course to upgrade your skills and/or employ people with those skills, etc; adopt the growth mindset so that you are able to develop your  skills, capabilities, abilities, experience, etc.)

iii) reframe negative self-talk into positives (reframing is a powerful tool, ie change your mindset (including words) so that the situation is seen in a positive light, eg a 'people's person' needs to view their tasks as helping people; there is a natural tendency to squash any feelings of anxiety, nervousness, etc. which can make the situation worse; rather than suppressing emotions (don't let your feelings get in the way), it is better to reappraise (reassess or reframe the situation and outcomes) and accept (embrace your feelings); some suggest reappraising anxiety as excitement, ie 'I am excited', eg using an opportunity mindset rather than a threat mindset; another technique involves sense-checking, ie discuss and explore the negative self-talk with a trusted friend or adviser who will provide you with a reality check and turn it into a positive; this trusted friend or adviser needs to have your best interests at heart, will keep your conversations confidential, and be both honest and constructive)

iv) practise gratitude, ie 'count your blessings' (this will increase your well-being, including resilience level)

v) improve self-awareness (for handling lack of confidence, pressure, anxiety and nervousness; there are 2 parts to self-awareness

    - narrative focus, ie engaged in reflections, planning, strategising, forward thinking, aspirations, etc for the future like goals, activities, etc)

    - experiential focus, ie centred on our present experience.

Generally, you vacillate between the two. There is an advantage in separating these foci. Some examples:

    - focus on the immediate experience of the moment and do not think about the future, as a way to handle stress. One way to do this is to do some deep breathing (with the air coming from the belly, not your chest), ie inhaling and exhaling plus counting backwards when exhaling.

    - in public speaking

"...highlight the importance of how you manage your body, your breath, and your voice in relation to the time and space you had to speak......many people are too quick to speak (or occasionally overcompensate by being too slow), and take up too little space physically, as if they are being apologetic..."

Charlie Walker-Wise as quoted by Rebecca Newton, 2019

NB All the above skills can be learnt and developed via training, feedback, assessment, etc.

Nervousness, anxiety, feeling uncomfortable, etc are all part of 'stepping out of your comfort zone' and being challenged.

 

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