“The end comes when we no longer talk with ourselves. It is the end of genuine thinking and the beginning of the final loneliness…The cessation of inner dialogue marks also the end of our concern with the world around us.” Eric Hoffer American Social Writer
Simply put, the way we talk to ourselves directly affects the way we interact with others and hence the way we live in the world. Engaged professionals harness the power of effective internal communication in order to direct their interactions toward positive outcomes. This chapter explores strategies to optimize our self-talk so that we can best shape our communication with others in authentic, meaningful ways.
What Goes Around Comes Around: How We Talk to Ourselves Affects How We Talk to Others
Whether or not we realize it, we are talking to ourselves around the clock, most of the time, without even being aware of doing so. This inner dialogue, known as self-talk, is a key element of a reflexive cognitive process known as automatic thinking. Like any reflex loop, our moods and overall outlook are direct responses to our internal dialogue. Most of us are not even aware of the nature of this inner conversation; however, recent evidence has demonstrated a direct link between high levels of negative self-talk and depression1–3 and between high levels of positive automatic thoughts and strong self-esteem.4
Just as motor responses can be strengthened through repetitive use, much of our internal dialogue has a habitual tone, which influences our overall outlook. As you will discover, the way we explain the causes, the level of our control, and the events of our lives can dramatically affect both our immediate mood as well as our overall level of optimism or pessimism.
In the course of our daily lives, most of us are unaware of the general tone of our self-talk unless a challenging interpersonal exchange evokes the awareness of a strong emotion (such as anger). Then, as a cascade of angry self-talk raises our level of irritability, we might find ourselves lashing out unexpectedly. Not surprisingly, such behavior may provoke an angry response of similar intensity. This perpetuates a cycle where our self-talk creates an internal mood, which is then conveyed in our interpersonal interactions. Accordingly, the affective responses we receive from others are related to the affect we convey. This cycle is conveyed in Figure 4-1.
The cycle between intrapersonal and interpersonal dialogue.
The following scenario in the lives of Champ and Blockhead is now presented so that you can begin to examine this relationship ...