40-Day Business Leadership Peak Performance Programme Day 23: Self Talk

You talk to yourself right?

When people talk about the mental game they are usually referring to inner dialogue or self-talk. Self-talk is normal and shows up as positive self-talk, neutral self-talk or negative self-talk. 

  • Positive self-talk sounds something like, “Gee, I handled that well. I’m happy about that.”
  • Neutral self-talk sounds like, “I need to pick up bread and milk on the way home … and call Fred … and get my golf bag out ready for the morning.”
  • Negative self-talk sounds like, “That went terribly. I shouldn’t have said that/done that.”

There are also extremes of positive and negative self-talk.

What I call Positive/positive self-talk often sounds like conceited, self-aggrandising or narcissist self-appraisals such as “Gee whiz, am I amazing, or what?’ They can include an unswerving infatuation or fanaticism for others.

Negative/negative self-talk sounds self-depreciating, self-derogatory and even demeaning and self-contemptuous self-appraisals such as, “I am a total idiot. I am useless. I am hopeless. I can’t. I am unlovable and stupid.” It can also show up as criticism, bigotry, contempt, resentment, blame and derision of others.

Self-talk is also what psychologists like Aaron Beck called the little voice. The little voice is usually negative self-talk or Automatic Negative Thoughts (ANTs) and always sounds like self-criticism; and judgements and criticisms about others. The little voice is also sometimes seen as the voice of inner guidance and inner wisdom but often we are too busy to actually hear that inner guidance. Mindfulness practices are designed to help you minimise the distracting inner noise so you can actually hear that inner wisdom.

Mind mastery coach, Ron Holland often talks about inputs and outputs. He advocates meditating and mindfulness especially for executives who invariably are ‘always on’ with no ‘off’ button. His approach is to become acutely aware of thoughts and feelings and to control the negative inputs.

Quoting Napoleon Hill:

“If you don’t control your thoughts and feelings … they will control you!”

The key is awareness, so meditating or mindfulness techniques help you to become a lot more aware of negative inputs – thoughts and feelings.

However, I believe there is a difference between self talk and chatter.

In my opinion chatter is not self-talk. Self-talk is a dialogue, a conversation whereas chatter is more an internal conflict caused by two or more competing propositions (should I or shouldn’t I).

My client Ron knows he needs to chase up late-paying customers but his self-talk centres on lengthy internal debates about whether his clients will get upset with him if he asks them to pay their bills; and the fear if they will take their business elsewhere. That’s the self-talk. But his chatter is a binary conflict between should I call them … or not?

I also think we get chatter when we are behaving incongruently. Ron actually knows exactly what he needs to do. He needs to chase the money. Period. Congruence was a concept raised by Carl Rogers. Congruence is about integrity, wholeness, walking your talk. It links to a theory of Cognitive Dissonance. Basically you get cognitive dissonance when there is a disparity between what you say or do. You’re either saying and doing something you shouldn’t be saying or doing … or you are not saying or doing something you know you should be.

People behave incongruently all the time. You know someone who says smoking is bad … but smokes. People pull into the drive-through of fast food chains knowing full well that the food is packed with unhealthy levels of sugars, salts, carbs and calories. But you do it anyway.

This is David’s dilemma. He knows he eats and drinks way too much … but he does it anyway … even though he knows it’s not right for him. It’s like eating ice-cream or chocolate when you are upset.

Sometimes incongruence treads a very dangerous line. I once worked with a pastor who was addicted to pornography. And I once worked with a businessman who took recreational drugs. Both of these people would have been horrified if their family or clients knew what they were up to.

Incongruence is essentially where the walk doesn’t match the talk. Not walking your talk gives you chatter. The problem is chatter is faulty beliefs, comfort zone attacks and arguing for your limitations will give you chatter as well because in your heart of hearts you know you are trying to avoid something that you know you need to resolve.  Get the idea?

That’s why it is important to shut down your chatter.

Mary was on the board for a local university and whenever she went to the monthly board meetings she would have these awkward encounters with a very influential businessman called Harvey who constantly made sexual innuendoes and references that bordered on harassment. Mary had lots of chatter about this. “Do I say something to Harvey or not?” Mary had done nothing about this issue for over 12 months and was now seriously considering resigning.

I asked Mary if she wanted to resign and she said an emphatic, ‘No. “But do I tell Harvey he is being inappropriate and his advances are unwanted and unappreciated … or not?”

What would you advise Mary to say or do? (Understand this was causing Mary major chatter!)


Because shutting down your chatter is such an important performance raising tool its equally important to review the chatter material so far. Try and identify your own chatter and start with something small.

Andrew Priestley is a qualified business leadership coach with clients worldwide. He is the author of The Money Chimp, Starting and How Money Flows Through Your Business. You can contact him through www.andrewpriestley.com

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It goes without saying that this is for information only and The Author  cannot be held responsible for any losses or damages that occur as a result of reading this material.

© 2017 Andrew Priestley/TCE Ltd

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