“We need to talk.”
“You don’t listen to me.”
“I don’t feel like we communicate at all. You only talk to me when you need something, and even then you don’t speak to me nicely.”
“I’m not happy.”
If it’s true (and it is undeniably true) that our most important relationship is the one we have with ourselves, then the most important conversations we have are also the ones we have with ourselves. And for most of us, our communication skills stink.
We engage in self-talk all day long. Mine goes something like this: “You’ve got to get up–gym time. I don’t feel like it. I know but you’ll feel better when you’re done. Ok, I’m moving. Man, what is going on with my hair? I think I need a haircut. I need something. Where did I put my sports bra? God, Heather, what is wrong with you? You lose everything. Found it-ha! Good girl. Now you’re late. No one else is even up yet! Relax a little. You don’t have to always be on top of things. Yes, I do. Whoops dropped my contact. Can I go to the gym with just one contact in? (Looks around the bathroom). That’s not going to work. Going to have to open a new pack. Wonder if that client returned my email? You told yourself you weren’t going to check emails until after your shower. You promised yourself. Oh yeah, well, I lied.I’ll just sit down with my phone for a minute and see what’s going on in the world….”
And that’s just the first 7 minutes of my day.
I believe words have power, and I believe the words you choose in your conversations, whether with yourself or with others, can change your life. We can learn to use our words to achieve success and to be victorious–we can win with words. But before we can do so with other people, we have to start with ourselves.
I’ve used self talk to change my relationship with food and exercise, to pivot careers, and to become more at ease with myself and with others. You can use your self talk to achieve anything you want, and here are the three keys to unlocking that potential.
1-Choose your words well.
The way you talk to yourself matters. It means the difference between success and failure, between happiness and dissatisfaction, between love and fear. You, and you alone, decide how you live your life. You’re given the noun–the life, the experience. The adverb is up to you. How will you live your life? How will you experience your experience? Words are the foundation of you days and your lives, and the words you choose when you talk to yourself matter.
Choose words of action over reaction. I’ve always hated the passive voice, because it gives control away. Passive voice sounds like this–it was decided, mistakes were made, my closet wasn’t cleaned. Replace it with active voice and everything becomes yours. I decided. I made mistakes. I didn’t clean my closet. When we own our voice, we own our actions and then we can take responsibility for how we live our lives, and how we experience our experiences.
There are so many ways the words we choose when we talk to ourselves matter. For just one day, trade “I have to” for “I get to”. Next time you’re lying in bed telling yourself “I have to get up” try switching out to “I get to get up” Some people don’t get to get up. They may be sick, depressed or without anywhere to go. Some don’t get to go to the gym, go to work, or deal with screaming kids. When you see your obligations as opportunities, and starting using words that make them so, you’ll be surprised at the way life opens up for you.
You can also trade seeing things as being done TO you, and instead see them as being done FOR you. This allows you to see the gift in everything. You’re fighting with your partner? That’s the chance to learn to communicate better, or to learn how to leave. It’s snowing like crazy and you have to go to work–an opportunity to slow down a little, share the experience with others you come in contact with, and build a stronger community into your day. Word choice matters, and when you are talking to yourself the words you use can lead you to a more victorious life.
The key to good communication is a willingness to listen. There’s a reason God gave us two ears and one mouth. Any relationship would improve if the communicators would listen twice as much as they speak. But as hard as it is to listen to others, it’s even harder to listen to ourselves. That little voice inside that we call our intuition has the wisest advice, the truest opinions, and it is always on our side. But so often we allow the world to drown that voice out completely. First, we block it with our own thoughts. You know the ones–the same ones you had yesterday, and the day before that, running on a constant loop inside your head. It might be the thoughts of failure, of fear, or of revenge. For too many years the loop in my head circled around my body like vultures. I constantly talked to myself about how fat I was, what I was eating that day, my plan to lose weight, or to hide the way I looked. I often wondered what it would be like inside my head without all of that noise.
When it did stop, after years of reading and work and prayer, what I found was the joy of silence. Without those thoughts there was space, and I could listen. I could hear the voice inside that said “this, not that.” “Hold on for a moment, let’s wait.” “It’s ok–you don’t need to do anything. Just be.” That’s the voice that leads you to your healthiest body, your healthiest relationships, and your healthiest life. But to hear it you must make room to listen.
One way to make that room is to meditate. Now I’ve tried all kinds of meditation. I’ve done Transcendental Meditation, loving kindness meditation, breath meditation, and body awareness. For me, the Insight Timer app is the best. It has so many choices, and you can choose based on what and how you are feeling that day. It’s a good way to experiment and see what works for you, and it’s free.
But meditation definitely isn’t for everyone. And you can’t fit a round peg into a square hole. If meditation doesn’t work for you, try swimming, walking, music, pottery, grounding, mazes, golf or hiking. Whatever helps you to quiet the voices inside so that you can listen to the VOICE that has the truest answers. Because you can’t Win With Words™ if you can’t hear the best ones.
Two of my favorite guides are Marianne Williamson and Elizabeth Gilbert. In her book “A Time for Change” Marianne talks about the “committee in your head”- the voices that we hear all day and night. In her book, “Big Magic” Elizabeth talks about our relationship with our own fear, and how we can let our fear come along for the ride, but it can’t be the one driving the car. Both of these women recognize that we’re constantly having inner conversations with ourselves, and who is talking and who is listening can have a huge impact on who we are.
We’re at our best when our best selves drive, and when our best selves head the committee. But how do we get fear, anxiety, judgment, and jealousy to take the back seat?
Make ‘em laugh. Or laugh at them.
Have you ever been in a fight with a toddler? You yell, she yells. You rage,she rages.She cries, and maybe you do too. But if you can find it within you to laugh, she often will as well. And then everything changes. You have far more influence with a toddler when you are making her laugh then when you are making her cry. And what are fear, anxiety, judgment, and jealousy other than the toddler voices inside our overactive brains?
The hardest part of this key is finding the humor in our inner conversations. You have to be able to breathe deep (meditation helps), choose to see things in a different light (word choice helps) and to simply be willing. Humor stems from the ability to see a situation differently. Change your words, change the way you see things, and loosen up a bit. Let laughter in, and it can change the conversation completely.
“We need to talk.” These words can change a relationship, and a life. Begin a conversation with yourself today, and just watch what happens.