A much larger portion of our own communication and that of others, boils down to some of the ‘non verbal’ elements, such as body language, tone and mindset.
Mindset, unconscious bias and beliefs sit below the surface, they can drive your assumptions, your responses, your reactions and your communication style. The iceberg analogy demonstrates what I mean, when you look at an iceberg, on the surface you only see about a quarter of it - the tip of the iceberg - the much bigger part sits below the surface of the water.
What goes on inside our heads matters, and science has proved it repeatedly. We think we can hide it, show a good game face, but if what is going on in our mind is negative it will come out somewhere in our communication. It will show up in our tone of voice, body language, even sometimes in the words we choose.
The great news is we have the power to change this at any time.
We can choose to use a different language, give ourselves time to process the negative thoughts and turn them into positive ones. If we seek to understand ourselves and others better we can seek to improve the quality of our communication.
A good question to consider is, would you speak to another person the way you speak to yourself?
Let’s look at the two most common voices we have inside our heads on any one day.
The inner coach and the inner critic
Your inner critic can be harsh, negative and often overly critical. The odd thing is we need our inner critic, we just don’t need it as loud as it can be at times. Useful dialogue from the inner critic is when it warns us of danger or lets us know when we may have overstepped a boundary or said something we shouldn’t have. However I usually find that this critical voice has got away with being a bit of a bully over the years and we’ve let it run around creating havoc in our minds, stopping us sometimes from reaching our goals, stepping forward for things, putting ourselves forward for promotions or even stepping up and doing some of the things we need to do in our jobs in life.
Your inner coach can be your own personal cheerleader. For most of us this voice could be a little louder. But sometimes it struggles with the words to say or is drowned out by the critic’s voice. The coach is dying to encourage and remind us of our strengths and give us courage to move into situations that we need to as professionals if we want to grow. We need more of this coach front and centre stage and way less of the critic.
Usually only one of these voices will be holding the stage at any one time, the idea is not to get rid of the critic, because you need a little bit of them from time to time, but to quieten the critic and give your coach some scripts and words to use, then practice replacing some of those chat sessions as they come up.
Here are some inner critic examples that I’ve heard or had myself over the years, you may have your own. The idea is to understand what the difference is between our coach and critic and just start to notice, acknowledge and have a look at what you’d like to turn around, what is useful and not useful.
“I’m not smart enough”, “I’m not fill in the blank enough”, “I’m going to fail”, “I did fail”, “I will fail”, “I’m going to look stupid”, “what if people laugh?” Or “they will laugh at me”, etc...
This is a process of acknowledgement and recognition not judgement.
I suggest getting a journal or just some paper and writing down some of your own inner critic examples you are aware of.
Then you can get with a coach, a mentor, a trusted friend or just on your own, start to decide which scripts you will keep and which you may prefer to re-write, here is an example of how you can choose to re-write them, you can use a strikethrough which is quite a good visual way, like you are editing rather than rejecting.
The definition of coach is an individual who helps someone else get from where they are now to where they want to be. We most often associate this with sport.
Throughout our professional careers we need coaches that help us to grow and develop too, and to assist us in building up our own inner coach and dialogue in our heads. We don’t always have to battle away on our own.
Every thought, every feeling and every action impacts both yourself and others. As a professional this is even more significant. We have an impact upon the people around us every single day. Sometimes the impact is positive and sometimes it can be negative.
The expressions you use, your body language, unconscious bias ,your thoughts, feelings and actions are conduits for power and influence and you can decide what kind of power and influence you want them to carry.
Our communication is either creating positive ripples or negative ones. Like a drop in the pond, these ripples can be far reaching, you get to choose what ripples you want to create. Once you become aware of the things that are influencing others, the ripples that you are creating and the effects that you are having, you are able to choose the kind of influence or impact that you’d actually like to make.
The power is with you - take a moment to notice and check in, decide if you would like to make some changes then go for it!