How’s Your Inner Dialogue?
Our thoughts often determine our future, so it is important to pay attention to our internal dialogue.
What is your internal dialogue saying?
Your internal dialogue is that self-talking voice inside our heads which has an opinion on many things (sometimes everything) around you. It is the voice that brings logic and reasoning to a given situation, based on your interpretations or previous experiences as a person.
Dr. David Simon once said, “reality is a selective act of attention and interpretation.” According to this view, our attention is what we put our mental focus on—but it is during the interpretation that the intellect analyzes and derives meaning. This interpretation takes place in the form of internal dialogue.
By observing and then turning off the spontaneous thoughts that you have about a given situation as soon as possible, and by learning how to have an effective and constructive inner dialogue, you can help defuse the negative effects of stressful situations in your life.
Here are a few tips for managing your inner dialogue:
First, acknowledge the emotion. It’s real. You own it. It’s telling you something important, so its time to constructively deal with this emotion.
Second, restate the generalization (how you feel). For example, if you are thinking “He never listens to me”, what would it look like to reflect on the situation to find a solution. For example: “If I talk with him privately, he’ll listen to this idea”. “It’s a good one”. “I’ll bring the facts and figures”. “He’s listened before when presented with the data.”
Next, turn the destructive labeling into a thought that is specific to that situation. For example, thinking that: “He’s such a jerk, I want to just quit” becomes “Yes, he was really a jerk in this meeting, but there have been times when he’s spoken up on my behalf and on behalf of my ideas.” In this situation, acknowledging your boss’ positive attributes makes it easier for you to become a solution-oriented coach and leader.
Avoid attempting to mind-read and making perceived assumptions. Try your best to ask question/address concerns directly. In this case, thinking that: “He’s not happy with my performance,” becomes “Perhaps he’s not happy with my performance in this instance, or perhaps something else is going on”. “I think I’ll just ask him.”
Try not to inflate the significance of the event. What would it look like to engage in some constructive inner dialogue instead? Try and think to yourself: “Okay, this thinking is getting out of hand”. “Let’s keep it in perspective”. “He maybe having a tough day”. “He’s been supportive in the past”. “I know this is a good idea, one that can save the company tens of thousands of dollars, and I have the data to back that up”. “I think I’ll see if I can get on his calendar later in the day or the week and bring the information to him then.”
Your constructive inner dialogue can also take the form of constructive affirmations or even questions, as in:
I know I do good work, and I’ve had lots of good ideas in the past.
I know this idea is a sound one, and I have the data to back this up.
I don’t need to stoop to his level, and I don’t need to get defensive.
I need to remember that he’s been supportive of my ideas in the past.
I wonder what’s up with him today that he reacted so harshly?
I wonder why I let my thoughts get so carried away that I would actually think of quitting? Usually I like this job!
Dr. Laura Belsten and ISEI®
My number one tip is spending time in silence through mindfulness! Mindfulness nurtures our ability to witness and control the thoughts that run through our minds on a daily basis. This helps us to gain awareness and lets us pay attention to our mental interpretation of situations we regularly encounter.
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