Resolutions to lose weight, spend less, save more and generally work to improve ourselves are a tradition at the start of each New Year. As you settle in to 2018, I’m inviting you to explore how you talk to yourself because research shows that self-talk influences the way we think, how we act and what we believe about ourselves and our abilities. That means self-talk has an impact on whether or not you reach those new ambitions you’ve set for yourself.

Self-talk can be an incredibly useful tool if we use it the right way. But some studies find that self-talk is negative up to 70 percent of the time. That means we’re providing ourselves with much more criticism than support. Take a look at the list below to learn how to transform the voices in your head into allies you can count on every day.

Auto-Pilot or Intentional

So much of the noise in our heads seems to come from nowhere. One minute you’re shopping for bananas and the next minute you’re comparing your sharp retort to colleague with the aggressive chest thumping of a gorilla. Is that an auto-pilot response or is it commentary that will intentionally help you to improve? As you become more aware of your ongoing inner dialogue, you can begin to train yourself to use more intentional self talk that supports your goals – including all those New Year’s resolutions!

Factual or Fictitious

Sometimes the things we say to ourselves are both negative and untrue. Instead of saying, “My slide deck could have used a little more work before the presentation,” we say “That slide deck is going to cost me my job. A third grader could have done a better job. I’m an idiot!” The first response is more likely to be factual. Perhaps someone asked for a better graph or fewer lines of text or questioned your choice of images. Those things happen and you can use that information to build a better deck in the future (especially if you’ll be presenting to the same group again). But where are the facts in the second response? Chances are, the second response is an emotional over-reaction that serves little or no purpose in meeting your goals. Work to recognize and replace fictitious self-talk as you move forward in 2018.

Critical or Constructive

When was the last time you gave yourself a constructive comment such as “You got this,” “Keep going, you’re almost there,” or “Way to go”? More common are comments like, “What a mess – you totally ruined everything,” “Sometimes you’re so stupid,” or “Any fool could have done that better than you.” I’m not suggesting that you let yourself off the hook for inappropriate behavior or the mistakes you make. I’m asking that you reframe your self-talk so it becomes more constructive and less critical over time.

For most of us, the first voice we hear in the morning and the last voice we hear at night comes from our own internal talk. Use those voices to your advantage to support your goals at life and at work – including your New Year’s resolutions.

Talk to you next week,

Amber D. Nelson



P.S. Here are a few more perspectives on self-talk for you to check out:

  • How talking out loud to yourself can be useful from the New York Times.
  • How self-talk can be help you win the race – or the day – from Psychology Today.
  • A sweet country song about the positive value of the voices in your head from singer Chris Young.



Cover of Amber Nelson's book, "Talk to Me"

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