Boss Lady

Understanding the impacts of your internal dialogue and self-talk


Often, when preparing for a difficult conversation or if we are entering a situation of stress, we may talk to ourselves to prepare for the variety of scenarios that play out. Sadly, you might be firing an employee or breaking up with a partner.

While these are unfortunate situations, the way you talk to yourself can determine if the challenging conversation goes well or dissolves into full-blown conflict. Are you aware of the narratives you tell yourself? What the voice inside your head is saying?

Key phrases you repeatedly tell yourself determine your attitude to yourself and others. Some of those narratives don’t serve you, but lead to counter-productive behaviour and set you up for failure.

If reinforced over and over again, negative self-talk can become a mantra and will not bring you closer to people to establish good relationships. Rather the impact of this internal dialogue will push you further away from others and it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Becoming aware of these patterns is important if you want to avoid negative outcomes on a regular basis.

Examples of common negative self-talk phrases include:

  • “I can relax only after I achieve this goal…”
  • “Only if I work hard, I can I sit back and enjoy the fruits of my labour…”
  • “Everything is fine now, but after a while something is bound to happen.”
  • “My son is doing really well at school, but after the holidays he might struggle to get back into the routine again.”
  • It doesn’t matter what I do, it won’t work.
  • Damned if I do, and damned if I don’t.

This type of self-talk leads to burn out, neglecting family and friends and puts you on the defensive, expecting negative things to happen. When you think this way, you attract conflict and set yourself up for negative reactivity.

Your self-talk patterns correlate to how you perceive the world. Understanding your internal self-talk is an incredible tool. Another related aspect of self-talk and inner dialogue is the concept of shadow values.

We all have a set of values, which we aspire to. We also have ‘shadow values’ that we may try to hide such as feeling superior or controlling a situation. We may feel shame, guilt or fear about these shadow values, but it is important to accept them and integrate them into our whole self.

Using the shadow value of superiority as an example, I may think I am a better person to complete a job, compared to the person given that task. And I may feel ashamed that I have that thought, because it isn’t modest, it is arrogant and not right. Usually such thoughts are kept private (secret) and can contribute to the negative self-talk, like “I shouldn’t…,I can’t…”

The fact though is that these shadow values are part of our “real” self and only if we acknowledge them and allow them, they can turn into a positive aspect of us and make us fully “authentic”.

So how do I do this?

I could offer to help the person, giving them relief from a problem or situation and allowing them to move onto a task they may be better at. With my (superior) experience, I can provide them with a perspective they haven’t thought about before, rather than suggesting they do the task ‘my way’.

Here, the shadow value of superiority is contributing to something good. You can then change your self-talk to be more positive, your superiority worked as you were helpful to someone and ultimately avoided a situation of conflict because you were able to peacefully offer advice and stay out of drama.

Ultimately, your self-talk has the capacity to determine the outcome of a challenging communication situation like conflict. Having a positive internal dialogue creates a more positive headspace for yourself, resulting in a happier you that can connect strongly with friends, family and business associates.

About Ilona Vass'

Ilona Vass is the Director and Founder of Dancing With the Dragons. Ilona is a licenced and certified practitioner of PCM and LOD systems, and results coach, and has a Certificate in human resources and organisational development. Dancing with the Dragons assists companies and their leadership teams to develop a passionate a supportive team, ensuring that company culture equals a profitable business.

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