I truly believe that being a great communicator can change your world – and that includes the way you talk to yourself.
We all have the evil inner critic that is quick to be hard on ourselves. For some, it is louder than others. For me, it’s sometimes not even a voice, just a feeling that I can’t, or I shouldn’t, or I won’t be able to.
I come across negative self talk all the time from my clients. The radio presenter who thinks they will sound cheesy if they say something, the TV broadcaster who doesn’t think they can talk to their boss about the future because they won’t want to hear it, the business owner who doesn’t think they can stand on a stage and tell their story. Most of all, when you are putting yourself out there it is really easy to tell yourself that you aren’t good enough and that all you have to do is get through the presentation.
The result is exactly that – a mediocre, forgettable presentation.
Henry Ford once said “The man who thinks he can, and the man who thinks he can’t, is usually right”.
Here are the 3 tips I give to change the self-talk:
“I love myself”
This is simple. In your quiet moments, get into the habit of repeating the words just say ‘I love myself, I love myself…” in my head. In Barry McDonagh’s book “The DARE Response” this is the advice he gives as the culmination of all the reading he has done. This is the one way that you can change your self-talk and the way you feel about yourself. (Read the book too – it’s excellent).
I have suggested this to friends and clients, some of them say that they don’t believe it, or that it sounds tinny and thin when they hear it.
It’s hard to convince yourself you are worthy of your own love when you have spent so much time bashing yourself. So just keep repeating it. The tinny and weak sounds become healthy and more real.
You can’t give what you haven’t got, and so when you believe in yourself it is easier to put yourself “out there” and speak.
2. Change Your Story (with help from Gratitude)
Our thoughts are the stories we have told ourselves about the experiences we have had, or are having. It’s hard to change an experience, but you can change your story. On top of that (if you are struggling with how to change that story), starting with gratitude is a great way to ground your thoughts so that you can make that change.
I do a lot of CrossFit and recently the sessions have included running. I am always a slow runner. In fact, whenever running comes up on the board I say to myself ‘ugh I am a terrible runner”. This week we had a session where we had to do 4, 800-metre runs (interspersed with 25 overhead squats!).
On the first run, my head said “ugh I am a terrible runner, why are you doing this, you’re never going to finish this session in the time” and I felt sluggish, rubbish and slow. I looked at the clock and decided there was no way that I would make the 25-minute time cap.
Halfway through the second run I had a word with myself: “yes you are a slow runner, but you are not a terrible runner – change this self-talk please”. So I changed it to say “I am grateful for my legs – I am so lucky I can run” and (because I was getting very tired!) I shortened it to “Can run, Good runner” every step!
After the 4th run, I made it over the line at 24 minutes and 59 seconds!
By changing my self-talk and committing to it – a hideous experience was made a lot better: I completed the session and in the time as well. It all started with gratitude.
Take down the thoughts
In the book, The Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron gives some great advice around quelling the inner critic in our head.
Her technique is to write down the negative thought she calls it the “blurt” – eg “You are not good enough at that to do this”. And then turn it into a positive thought, an “affirmation”.
Even better you might want to take the negative thought, and try writing 5 affirmations against it.
It always strikes me that our inner critic can be so mean! You would never tell someone else the things that your inner critic says to you. So be kind to yourself, back yourself and defend yourself.
Everyone has the inner critic. Everyone.
Before every talk, workshop or session I do, my inner critic has told me that this is going to be awful and that everyone will know this already, that I am not telling them anything new so what’s the point? But I fight through it, I change the story and I defend myself against the thoughts. Mostly I say “I can do this” or “I love myself” and then, I get a thrill from reading the feedback forms at the end of the sessions.
And have you ever wondered why your other half is defending themselves even before you’ve asked them the simplest question?!
The answer is in …..Your Voice
Your impact is defined by how you use your voice, in any environment. Getting it right will change your life.
So, here are some tips to “change your life”
1. Pause and Emphasise
There is a technique called the Hudson Technique where you learn to end a sentence, pause, and emphasise the beginning of the next sentence. Letting your thoughts and words run into each other is exactly how to lose your listeners. This is especially true when you are moving between topics. So to keep your listener’s attention you have to start with an energetic word or phrase to indicate “this is new”. And you can use the power of the pause to build up the emphasis.
You will well know that the one thing that gets your attention most these days is silence. Think about what it is that makes you actually look at the radio?!
2. Sing Song
Your voice has a natural melody. Except when we are under pressure (like in a talk) we can lose the melody or over use the melody entirely. In his TEDx Talk Vocal Coach Roger Love talks about the fact that staying monotonous means your audience just knows what is coming. He talks about embracing the melody in “going up the stairs” and “coming down the stairs”. How one implies happy, and one implies sad.
You can watch it here:
3. Use Your Face to be Believable
When you are doing a serious pieces: frown and it will make you sound serious. When you are doing a happy piece, or you need energy: smile – you won’t believe the difference in a smile! And then there is just plain believing in what you are saying. The reality is that you will have to talk about something you either don’t really fully understand, or don’t care about. At this point you must deploy self reflection. Engaging with either what you know to be true about what you are talking about, or engaging some empathy around what you are talking about, can help you to believe in what you are saying.
4. Self Care
Your voice is a muscle, that is part of your body, and it needs to be cared for. Some people when they get overworked and overtired – it shows in their voice. The vocal cords take a hammering. I’m not suggesting that you start getting all diva honey and lemon over your voice. I am suggesting that you can remember to rest, to stand tall, to allow your lungs the space to breathe, to breathe properly, to stay hydrated and one final tip to keep your vocal cords in check: hum. Hum around the house, and wherever you can. The vibrations are supposed to help keep the muscles strong and lubricated!
Use your voice to create impact and engage your audience, and you can sweep them off their feet.
Let’s be clear straight up: when you put yourself out there (on stage, on air, on screen), you are putting yourself in a position to serve others and to do that you have to be in a good place mentally and emotionally.
If you then start thinking about how speaking in public isn’t refined to the stage, it occurs in meetings or pitches or networking, you can start to understand why looking after yourself will affect your performance every day.
Self Care is vital to ensure you nail it (and it feels good too). Here are 5 things I prescribe.
1) Congratulate yourself 3 times every morning
How you talk to yourself is how you will behave. If you tell yourself that the crowd will hate you, you will end up uncomfortable on stage and behave in a way that the crowd end up dispondant and then it’s not a big distance for you to convince yourself you were right: they hate you.
So every morning as your feet hit the floor tell yourself 3 things you’re proud of or grateful for make this a habit.
2) A bag of spinach
You are what you eat. I know it’s a cliche, and I am the first to admit I over eat and my relationship with sugar is somewhere between complicated and destructive BUT….
When you eat well, you perform well. Sugar has a tendency to make you sleepy and if you are sluggish on stage your audience will feel it too.
I eat a lot better than I used to and one of the things that has improved my diet massively is a handy bag of spinach.
If I am in a rush or out for a meal I will add a handful of spinach to my plate. It means I know I am getting the right amount of good food in my system and I can stay on the go too.
Find your “bag of spinach” option and feel yourself get better!
3) Funtake (Fun Intake)
I read so many things that say “you can’t succeed if you’re watching loads of TV. Here’s the thing: you will succeed if you manage your feel good.
During the last bout of depression my counsellor told me to do something I loved every day. And I’m not the only one. Bryony Gordon talks about the same thing in her book “Mad Girl”, and a friend of mine was prescribed the same thing.
Its basically the act of in-taking joy : Funtake.
Do something that brings you joy every day. For me this is a box-set on Netflix, or a course on Udemy or a podcast.
4) Make your day work for you
Turns out I am an early riser. Who knew? All those years I convinced myself I was a night owl and then I had babies and I am a lark after all.
Discovering I am a morning person means I get rewarded with seeing things like this majestic horse at the top of this post, when I’m on holiday
I’ve also discovered my best work is done in the morning. But if I book a client session in in the afternoon I really slump ( see point 2 – this could also be overeating carbs at lunch!)
Putting hard edges in your day means saving the best time of day for your most important work. Allow yourself to try things and work out what time of day is best for you – then plan around it.
5) Make your night work for you
The science shows that you should be getting 7 hour of sleep a night minimum. Anything under that means you are not functioning at your full capacity. And the scary this g is that you don’t know that you aren’t – you think you:re fine!
Now shift work, and heavy work loads, sometimes make this 7 hours impossible. I would still suggest you monitor it, and move as best you can towards it. Try going to bed 10 minutes earlier rather than trying to sleep later.
The problem with Self Care & building habits is that it’s really easy to get in to the “shoulds” of life. “I should be getting 7 hours of sleep…” can be as counter productive for some people as it is productive for others.
So the commitment has to be “do it one step at a time”. Form one habit (small) then add the next when you’re ready.
Take all of you, with your flaws, and just try to be better today than you were yesterday. A house is not built with one brick…