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Sunday, 24 August 2014





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Talking to yourself is a rewarding experience

Long years ago, I spent a week’s holiday with one of my office friends in his ancestral home in the hill country. His father died when he was young and the mother raised the three children out of the income generated from leasing a part of their property.

It was a two-storey house and to reach upstairs, I had to pass by the living room of my friend’s mother. Several evenings as I returned from long strolls through the winding streets in the exceptionally beautiful village, I sensed a presence in that darkened room, but didn’t want to snoop.

When we talk to ourselves about problems in our lives, in a sense, we are turning the job over to the other “fellow” - the subconscious.

One evening the lights snapped on. My friend’s mother was just rising from a chair. “Good evening auntie! What are you doing?” I blurted, “sitting there in the dark every night?” She smiled and explained. “Once a day before sitting for dinner, I have a 10-minute chat with myself.”

Her household then included an ex-Army nephew with a young wife and resettlement problem, one Son and two beautiful teen-age daughters who were living through at least one social crisis apiece per week. In the centre of all these, she presided with serene grace.

I asked her to tell me more about her 10-minute chats. “Mostly, what ifs. You know. What if I fixed up one end of the upstairs for Edddy and Saroja, so that they have more privacy, until he gets a job and a place of his own?

What if I paid Lokki’s tuition for her intermediate stage of Management degree, and she work and study for her Final, while I paid Poddi’s first semester for her IT course? Things like that. Sometimes, I get the answers.”

Five years later, I realised that she got all the answers to bring good things, one by one, to each person in the household - including university degrees for both girls.


Do you also talk to yourself? If not, you are missing something quite important. Do not think that talking to yourself is just for pre-schoolers and wild-eyed conspiracy theorists. It is not!

For example, when we talk to ourselves about problems, in a sense, we are turning the job over to the other “fellow” - the subconscious. On receipt of the message, it will keep picking at the problem long after we have left it to go back to our regular work, to dinner, even to sleep. A fantastic computer, it keeps trying various linkages to solve the problem, until it manages to find one that fits.

Noisy world

A veteran salesman once told me that most high-level salesmen talk to themselves all day long. “We do it to drown out the other voices,” he said. “I mean, the voices of prospects that tell us they don’t need our product. They hammer at our confidence every day. The high-level salesman talks his confidence up.

He tells himself that almost every sale he ever made started with a “No.” He tells himself the answers he will make to the objections he’ll face. And because of this conversation with himself he is talking to his most suspicious listener, he builds his strongest case.

Today, we live in a noisy world. Yet, many people struggle with too much silence in their lives. They are either living alone or living with others who are engrossed in their own affairs. If you are one of them, what would you do? “Maybe, I can always click on the TV, the radio, or my latest digital gizmo,” you might say.

But what happens if you’re yearning for a live person to talk to? To bounce your ideas off the chest? To appreciate your accomplishments (big or small)?

When you’re in that mood, chances are that you neglect to give enough attention to a very special person. Someone who is always there with you. Yourself. So, why not talk to yourself. Talking to yourself not only relieves the loneliness, it may also make you smarter. It helps you clarify your thoughts, realise what’s important and build any decisions you’re contemplating. There’s just one proviso: You become smarter only if you speak truthfully to yourself.

Different types

There is actually more than one kind of talking to yourself:

Negative Self-Talk

Just as it sounds, negative self-talk encompasses the harmful inner voice that interprets situations pessimistically. Examples include:” I was stupid last evening” “I can’t do anything right” “Nobody likes me” “Nothing ever works out.”

For many people, negative self-talk leads to unpleasant emotions such as sadness, depression, anxiety, anger or fear. It can also impair motivation and impede progress toward goals.

Honest self-conversation should enable you to know how your behaviour needs to change

It is important to identify the negative self-talk that interferes with your functioning. What negative self-talk do you find entering your mind throughout the day? Pay special attention to times when you are challenged, do not meet goals, and/or feel disappointed.

Motivational self-talk

This is a commonly used type of positive self-talk. Imagine a little cheerleader in your head offering praise and encouragement to motivate you to achieve your goals. Examples include: “You can do it!” “You’re awesome!” “You’re going to do this excellently!”

In sports, motivational self-talk offers the most effectiveness with power goals, such as jumping high, throwing a ball far and running fast.

Outside sports, we participate in some activities that might require more power than precision. For instance, situations where you hesitate to act due to fear, anxiety, or low self-confidence might require motivational self-talk.

Power goals in life might include: Walking into an anxiety-provoking social situation: Answering the phone when you see it’s a potential employer calling: Getting out of bed (especially if you are depressed): Sitting down to write a blog entry after two months of not writing anything!

Instructional self-talk

Instructional self-talk is often overlooked, which is unfortunate since it can be helpful in so many situations. As the term implies, instructional self-talk refers to the inner voice that provides directions for you to perform certain tasks. Some sports examples include: “Keep your eye on the ball.” “Loosen your grip.” “Breathe.” “Focus on your next move.”

People often overuse motivational self-talk when more instructional statements would be most beneficial. According to sports psychologists, athletes best meet precision goals when using instructional self-talk.

For instance, consider a man trying to improve his tennis game. If he solely thinks “You are strong!” when playing the game, he may execute great power on to the ball with his racket, but he may also miss certain nuances and skills that would actually improve his tennis capabilities.

Thoughts like “loosen your grip” or “look to where you want the ball to go” might further develop abilities requiring fine motor coordination and accuracy.

Some non-sport experiences may parallel precision goals as well. For instance, a person with social anxiety may walk into a crowded room and start a conversation with someone riding the high of a motivational statement like “people love you,” but instructional self-talk like “make eye contact” or “finish your sentence; don’t trail off” might best help that person maintain composure throughout the evening.

Honest self-conversation should enable you to know how your behaviour needs to change. And behaviour is what counts. As an old proverb says: “To know but not to act is not to know at all.”

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