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Learn to Lead Confidently with Positive Self-Talk
Hi everyone, it’s Jenn DeWall, and on this week’s episode of The Leadership Habit Podcast, we’re doing a minisode. I am going to be talking about how you can lead confidently with positive communication. And let’s be honest. It actually starts with how we talk to ourselves. But before we get into the show, I want to remind you that every single month Crestcom offers a complimentary webinar that is open to the public, all on relevant topics that we know can help you now be the best that you can be. And our topic on Thursday, January 26th at 10:00 AM Eastern is New Year, New Mindset: Develop a Growth Mindset for a Successful 2023. You can register for this webinar by going to crestcom.com and finding it available on our resources tab. And there, you can also find a complimentary e-book on leadership. Now, I hope that I can see you there.
I love that topic. I think it’s a really important way to look at our coming year and how we can build our success. And it connects with what we’re going to be talking about now, how to lead confidently with positive self-talk. This topic is incredibly important. As many of us are starting to have more conversations about mental health at work, we have to understand what is going on in our brains. And to do that, I want to just share some stats with you right now.
And one powerful stat, or at least powerful to me, is from the National Science Foundation, and they found that an average person has about 12,000 to 60,000 thoughts per day. And of those, 80% are negative, meaning that we might assume the worst is going to happen because we want to protect ourselves and be prepared when it is, or we used our past experiences, failures, and missteps, and we think that it’s going to hold true today.
How Can We Lead Confidently When 80% of Thoughts are Negative?
So 80% of our thoughts are negative due to what they would call a negativity bias. And I’ll jump into that in a second. But here’s the other piece I want you to remember. 80% of them are negative, but 95% of them are repetitive thoughts. Meaning yesterday, if I woke up and I told myself that I was not a great leader, I could not be successful. Chances are you’re going to feel the exact same thing today. But here’s what I want to remind you. You always get to choose your thoughts. But let’s go back to that stat that I shared— that 80% of our thoughts are negative. One of the reasons for this is that we have a negativity bias. As humans, we tend to remember traumatic experiences better than positive ones. That is something that I feel we do as perfectionists.
I did that, but I didn’t do it perfectly, so I’m going to judge myself based on those mistakes. Negativity bias also might sound like recalling insults better than praise or reacting more strongly to negative stimuli. We might be a bit more defensive or think about negative things more frequently than positive ones. This is where anxiety can live. And again, another way that we might demonstrate this is by responding more strongly to negative events than equally positive ones. And I would go back to that perfectionist example. We sometimes discard the positive feedback we get, especially if we think we didn’t do it perfectly. But let me give you that definition of negativity bias. The bias towards negativity leads you to pay much more attention to bad things that happen to make them much more important than they are.
How Negativity Bias Impacts Your Ability to Lead Confidently
And I want you to reflect on what impact you think a negativity bias might have on your work, how you lead a team or how you show up at work in your head. Of those 12,000 to 60,000 thoughts per day, it might sound like it’s too late for me, so why try? But what will they think of me? Or I’m so stupid? I can’t do it. I’m so embarrassed. Why did they get picked over me? Is something wrong with me? Now, I say this to you because these are common examples of how many of us speak to ourselves, but I want to encourage you to change the way that you talk to yourself. And the only way we can communicate positively is if we start talking to ourselves in a more positive and compassionate manner.
Watch Out For GAILs
But let me quickly jump in and tell you four main energy drains or the things that might be barriers on top of that negativity bias to how we have a positive mindset or talk to ourselves. These are positivity barriers, and they are known as the acronym GAILs, that’s G A I L. So let’s talk about these energy blocks. They’re the things that get in our way that disrupt our ability to think positively about a situation.
The G in GAIL is the gremlin, and this is the inner critic that we all have that’s telling us some version of you are not good enough, which creates a sense of inadequacy. Of course, it lowers our confidence, increases our stress and anxiety, and decreases our ability to have influence. And here’s the point, if you are thinking to yourself, oh my gosh, I have a very strong inner critic, know that it’s totally common that every single one of us actually has it. So that’s the G of the energy drainers, GAILs, that’s the G and GAIL.
Now the A are assumptions. It’s believing that since it happened before, it will happen again. And it might sound like because that customer didn’t want to invest in my services, no one will want to invest in them. I applied for that job and didn’t get it, so I’ll never get a job. Or because I got passed over for that promotion once. It’s going to happen again. The challenge with assumptions is that the data may or may not be true. It’s not likely true that because you didn’t get one job, you’re not going to get another. This is where our resilience needs to live in challenging these assumptions and not using them to dictate our decisions of the presence. Because as leaders, you might notice this in the form of that employee or that individual who did that once they’re going to do it again, so I don’t trust them.
Or we can use other assumptions to avoid risk or keep ourselves safe. We make assumptions to make decisions. So of our en energy drainers, we talked about the first two of Gail, the gremlins and the assumptions.
Now we get to talk about the I in GAIL, which is interpretations. Now, interpretations are creating an opinion on an event, a situation or an experience that you believe is the only explanation. Now let’s describe what this might look like. Let’s say that we go into a social event and you see a friend there, and you’re waving so excited to see them, but you notice they don’t respond. They give you no wave and don’t even acknowledge your presence. So you start thinking to yourself, what did I do wrong? I must have made them angry. Where did my actions create that type of response? We begin to interpret it without actually knowing the truth.
And we think that that’s the only explanation. Whereas if I expand my viewpoint and go back to that example, maybe my friend didn’t wave back because they didn’t see me. What if it’s not always the first story that comes to mind? How we interpret our life comes down to the difference between our truth and the truth. And if you can’t go ahead and you’re looking at a situation, and there’s a lot of uncertainty, remember that you get to choose how you perceive it, decide how to interpret it, and most of us will interpret it as the worst likely outcome. But I want you to challenge your brain to think about what else I could be missing. Maybe they just didn’t see me. So interpretations— this is what leaders and individuals do all day long. We’re trying to assess our surroundings.
Are we on the same page? Did I miss something? And again, I just want you to remember that interpretations happen, and it’s our kind of first impression of an observation. But remember that sometimes it’s wrong.
Now, let’s talk about the L. So- gremlins, assumptions, interpretations, and now let’s go into limiting beliefs, which is the final piece of our energy drainers. Now, limiting beliefs are opinions or beliefs about the world that limit us in some way. For example, I am too old to change careers or because I’m a woman, I can’t do that. Or because I’m a man, I can’t do that. Think about it as a general rule that limits us or constrains us in some way. Hey, if I tell myself, I’m too old, hey, because I’m so old I can’t possibly change careers, well then I won’t have the confidence to actually do it because I’m listening to that rule and making it a reality when in fact you get to call the shots and create the rules for your own life.
But here’s the piece that I want you to be a little curious about because many of these limiting beliefs are actually things we learned over time. They might be messages we hear from parents or reinforced by teachers, coaches, or bosses. And we have to watch for this, especially in how we make decisions and delegate and trust people—and even understand the rule that limiting beliefs can plan innovation. Hey, we tried that once before, and it didn’t work, so I know the same thing will happen. Or because we’re too small, we can’t do something that big.
So I want you to challenge that. And if you’re trying to coach around one of these four areas, the GAILs, I want you to be mindful of challenging the self-doubt. Name it. Understand what that message is. You might be saying; I am not good enough. I am not smart enough. I do not have the experience. Challenge it and know that it’s natural to have those thoughts, but you don’t want to hold on to them, that you reinforce them and repeat them every day, that you believe that they’re the truth. And in terms of assumptions, you can challenge that by saying, well, just because it happened once before, who says it must happen again? Just because someone didn’t hire me does not mean no one will hire me. And if you want to challenge interpretations, you might ask, did your coworker really try to make you mad? Or was your coworker actually trying to explain something or represent a point of view that might be missing? A lot of of times we might assume that someone’s out to get us when, as a matter of fact, it might just be that they have a different approach to how we’re looking at the problem.
And if you want to challenge limiting beliefs, the place that I would start with is because I’m a man, I can’t express emotions or because I’m a woman, I can’t do this. I want you to challenge it. What proof do you have that it’s true? If you think in terms of the example around careers, ah, you know, I’m too old to be able to change. If we look and just put in a Google search, we’ll see that many people created success later in life after changing their calling. So ask yourself, what proof do you have that this is true? Whether having a conversation looking online, look for ways to disarm and undermine that rule to show yourself that it’s a limiting belief and not necessarily the truth. Now, as a closing reflection question, as we talk about Gail’s, what I want you to think about is what GAIL or energy drainer holds you back from being positive.
Challenge Your Thoughts to Lead Confidently
Now, as a closing reflection question, as we talk about Gail’s, I want you to think about what GAIL or energy drainer holds you back from being positive. Is it that gremlin or inner critic? Is it an assumption that because it happened once, it’s going to happen again? Is it how we interpret that world? Perception is the reality for us, but we can always challenge that perception. And then, of course, limiting beliefs. Now, why do we need to care about this? The benefits of positive self-talk are many. It improves our health, specifically our immune system. It can reduce pain, and it can improve our cardiovascular health and our mental health. We, of course, can have positive self-esteem, an increase in confidence, and greater life satisfaction. We can also reduce stress by controlling our thoughts. And of course, and this is what research says, we can have an increased lifespan so we can live longer if we change how we talk to ourselves. And here’s the other piece that I want to drive home. It’s a public service announcement that I want all of you to hear.
Thoughts are not Facts
If you don’t remember the energy drainers, I want you to remember this specific thought, or I should say a statement. Thoughts are not facts; thoughts are not facts. Going back to how we opened up this mini-sode many times, we don’t realize that we’re having the same thought over and over again, that we actually think it’s true and know that that’s only because of the impact of negativity bias or the repetition of saying that thought over and over and over. So challenge your thoughts. If you’re telling yourself as you’re approaching a new project, I am not good enough. I do not have the skills for this at all yet. At the end of it, expand your possibilities. Open up your brain to see that you know what I. I can figure this out. I can do this. I can learn a new skill, but I want you to be mindful.
And also, this is where it’s really, really important to be compassionate with yourself as it relates to self-talk. We have to pay attention to why we think the way that we think. And many of us have picked up thoughts or behaviors and these truths as a form of our own survival to help us be the best in the environments and the situations that they are. Why do we think the way that we think could be our childhood messages that we heard from our parents? It could be past mistakes, and we want to make sure we never do it again. Of course, it’s just past experience in general. And maybe it’s our pain. We’re trying to keep ourselves safe. Maybe it’s that we received criticism and feedback in the past, and we just assumed that, well, I guess maybe my style isn’t for everyone. I heard that one piece of bad feedback. Now I’m going to use that to say I’m not good enough.
It could also be our own confirmation bias. We say over and over again that we believe that it’s true and there’s no possible way to look at it. And it’s also thinking about why we think that way. That we think you pay attention to what you’re consuming on your computer. Are you picking up social media and then starting to judge yourself? Well, I’m not as successful as them. Look at what they’re doing. Gosh, everyone else must be living a better life than I am. Comparison is the thief of joy. And understand that it’s natural to compare as a benchmark, and that can be really effective until it’s not until it costs you your mental health until it costs you your confidence.
Know What Triggers Your Negative Self-Talk
And, of course, why do we think the way that we think we have triggers? We all have triggers— things that can prompt a particular thought pattern. And my trigger might be when I get a rejection, then I tend to go down a shame spiral of, Jenn, you’re so stupid. Why would you even think that you could do this? Everyone else can do it so much more than you. But there are also deeper-level triggers. Ones that might sound like I feel judged. I feel blamed. I feel disrespected. I feel unimportant. I feel unwelcomed. When we’re triggered, it makes managing our thoughts much more challenging because we likely have a default stress response, either fight, flight, freeze, or fun, attached to the action resulting from that trigger. So again, if we’re talking about trying to change our thoughts to improve our positive communication, it also starts with the foundation of emotional intelligence, of understanding that the benefit comes from responding, not from reacting. Now, if you don’t, if the benefits weren’t enough to talk about why we want to change the way that we talk, let’s talk about the costs of negative self-talk, burnout, anxiety and depression, and healthy relationships.
Hey, think about that. If I’m not feeling good enough about myself, I might not have as much trust. I might be more jealous. I might be more worried and insecure. Cost of negative self-talk mistakes. If I’m constantly telling myself, I’m going to goof up. Well, it’s kind of a self-fulfilling pro, a proud book, excuse me, prophecy, you will eventually goof up or withdrawal. When we start to tell ourselves, I’m not good enough, my opinions don’t matter who I am, doesn’t matter, we pull away. And that actually goes against what we as humans are designed to do, which is social beings designed for connection, but the cost of negative self-talk can also be substance abuse, perfectionism.
How to Improve Your Thoughts
And so, to wrap up today, I’m gonna talk about a framework to improve your thinking. And it starts with number one, listening. Two, highlighting. Three, halting. Four, replacing. And five, focusing.
And listening is the foundation, again, of our emotional intelligence. What are the things that we’re saying to ourselves? This is the opportunity to keep a judgment journal. What are the situations where you feel triggered? Maybe it’s around particular people, especially those that have a higher power position. I want you to be aware of the situations where you might go within. You might start to withdraw. And once you’re aware, that’s the listening piece. So do a judgment journal and write down every single time that you start to shrink lower and lower or that you notice those GAILs popping in the gremlin, the assumption, the interpretations, the limiting beliefs. Start to track that.
Now, step number two, to be able to improve your thinking, is highlighting this is where we do the hard work that many people don’t do because we assume it’s true because we thought it. But remember, thoughts are not facts. I want you to fact-check the thought. Was this true all the time? Is there any reason to believe that you could actually have a different reaction? Another way to do this could also be asking, well, you know, how true is this? What evidence do I really have? Because highlighting this challenging piece is also a way for us to disable the impacts of things like imposter syndrome. You know, despite evidence of success, feeling like a fraud. This is where we need to fact-check the thought. Hey, if you’re feeling like a fraud, oh my gosh, they’re going to find out that they hired the wrong person for this job. Well, let’s fact-check that. How true is it that they hired the wrong person for the job? What are your skills? What are your success stories of the past? Your accomplishments? You’ll likely find that you are actually the right person for the job.
Now, step number three to improve your thinking is to practice stopping the thought. And one of my all-time favorite tools. And if you do anything again from this, maybe just start by stopping the negative thoughts. And there’s one word that I love to use, and that’s “Deflect”. So when I start to say, Jenn, you’re never gonna be successful. Everyone else is gonna be more successful than you. You do not matter. You are not smart. Who do you think you are? I say to myself: deflect, deflect! I am not going down that rabbit hole. My thoughts are not facts. I just have to disrupt that repetitive thinking that came with me from yesterday that I programmed in over the last 40 years of my life. Deflect, not go in there. And that word also helps when we start to drive up the anxiety, assuming the worst is going to happen, deflect, nothing’s happened, yet we don’t have to go there.
And step number four, to improve positive thinking, is focusing on that replacement. So we have the awareness that’s part of the highlighting and checking it. Then it’s stopping the thought, but then it’s saying, what do you want to say to yourself in response or in response? So if I say, Jenn, you’re not good enough. A reframe or a replacement thought would be, I am good enough. Or if I said, I don’t know this. I don’t know this yet. That yet demonstrates again to your brain that you’ll figure it out. And another way to challenge it is, again, reminding yourself, what would you say to a friend? What would you say to them? Because we are so incredibly mean to ourselves. The greatest abuse a human will ever endure is the abuse inflicted upon them by themselves. And that quote is from the four agreements. And it’s a reminder that sometimes we can actually be the biggest bullies to ourselves.
And the final step to improving your thinking is focusing and knowing that it’s natural, that fear that your past thoughts are going to come up. But this is where you can practice that growth mindset. Understand that, heck, you’re always learning. If you’re not growing, you are dying. Every single day is an opportunity to learn something new. Do something new and grow. Practice that growth mindset. Know that it’s the opposite. Growth believes that we can always change. That fixed mindset says, Nope, this is exactly who you are, and here’s what I want to say to you. You can always change, but real talk requires you to put in the effort. And no one will want your success more than you. So you’ve gotta want this for yourself. And just remember that you have been thinking about this for yourself, but everyone else around you also has bad programming. So be supportive. Help people talk about it, normalize it. The more we normalize these conversations, the less awkward or weird or judgmental we might be to ourselves.
If You Don’t Like Something, Change It!
And the final quote that I want to leave you with is that ”If you don’t like something, change it. And if you can’t change it, change how you look at it.” And that’s from Mary Engel Bright. Thank you so much for listening. I hope to see you next week at our webinar on January 26th. That’s a Thursday, 10:00 AM Eastern when we’ll have a conversation about what we just talked about— how to build that growth mindset.
If you enjoyed Today’s mini-sode, leave us a review on your favorite podcast streaming service, or share the wealth to help other people disrupt their thoughts so they can be happier and more positive. Maybe you have someone struggling with confidence, and this could be an entryway you could use as a coaching tool to have that conversation. And in closing, if you ever want assistance with developing your leaders and making sure that you have the right tools to lead for the future of work, head on to Crestcom.com. We would love to help you with your developmental needs. Thank you so much for listening. Until next time.