We have about 70,000 thoughts per day, and around 85% of those thoughts are negative. That much negativity is bound to have an effect on your mood, productivity, and perceived self-worth.
Negative self-talk is more than just your inner critic. It can be any thought you have in which you denigrate yourself, put yourself down, or cause a lapse in self-confidence. Over time, this kind of self-talk can cause you to form a more negative view of yourself or your circumstances. By challenging the negative self-talk habit, you may be able to lessen the amount of interpersonal as well as intrapersonal conflict you experience.
Breaking Bad Habits
To overcome negative self-talk, first you need to become aware of it and make efforts to change your thinking. It may not feel like it, but your thought patterns can be changed with practice.
As you probably know, feelings are a part of most conflicts. If not handled appropriately, they’re likely to surface again later on, maybe even leading to a conflict escalating. It’s not about pretending that something didn’t upset or impact you or your feelings, it’s about choosing how you manage those feelings. And self-talk can play a huge role in this process.
Pay attention to how you talk to yourself. When you notice that you’re engaging in negative self-talk, pause and take a deep breath. Then try to reframe the thought or situation in a positive way. For example, instead of stewing in the negative and beating yourself up, breathe and reframe the thoughts as something positive.
The Effect of Conflict
Negative self-talk is insidious because it can sneak up on us, but it can also cause us to lash out at others or feel more stress. Similar to anger or pain, our negative thoughts can result in increased conflict. It doesn’t matter if this conflict is internal or external; placing yourself in a heightened state of conflict isn’t going to do you or anyone else any good.
Addressing your negative inner voice and overcoming those thought patterns can help you to avoid not only further inner conflict in which you are angry, disappointed, or anxious with yourself, but also external conflict in which you may become defensive, antagonistic, or paralyzed with indecision.
Self-Talk and the Workplace
Have you ever completed a task and then criticized your work performance? Or maybe you were in a team meeting and you phrased something imperfectly or you blurted out a half-formed thought, and afterward you started kicking yourself for the slip?
It’s happened to all of us at some point. Recognize that you aren’t perfect—none of us are—and that mistakes happen. Give yourself permission to make mistakes, because they are inevitable. Then give yourself permission to not chastise yourself for those mistakes. If you absolutely feel that you must rant or criticize yourself, try placing a time limit on the negativity. After five minutes, allow yourself to set it aside and move forward to find a solution.
Your negative inner voice can greatly influence how well you perform your job and how confident you feel. Improve your chances of being confident and avoiding external or internal conflict by transforming your negative inner critic into a positive inner voice.
Ellen F. Kandell is a certified professional mediator and attorney with over 30 years of public and private sector experience. She is one of eight Maryland mediators featured on a statewide demonstration video of good mediation practice. Ellen is certified by the International Mediation Institute. She provides mediation, group facilitation and training to diverse clients in Washington, DC and the US. Get in touch with her via email, and follow her on LinkedIn, and Twitter.