By | Diana Kawarsky
Begin challenging your own assumptions. Your assumptions are
your windows on the world. Scrub them off every once in a while,
or the light won’t come in. —Alan Alda
We each have an internal dialogue, not a monologue. We manage to
somehow speak to ourselves – go figure. And it is this internal dialogue
where we tell ourselves how to best negotiate our feelings and reconcile
them with our immediate environment.
Notice that these are in the present tense.
Most people simply do not take seriously how important it is to think about
how one thinks. The quality of your thinking has a huge impact on the
quality of your life, and if you choose to, you can strengthen your mental
state through positive thinking and developing your self-talk skills.
Your thinking affects the actions you take or do not take. You are what you
think about most of the time. Think about that. There have been periods of
my adult life when I have had my thinking hijacked by my own under-skill
of managing my self-talk. I remember a time when I was living and
working in Victoria, BC how I thought of nothing but how I missed my
home in Toronto, how I missed a few select people who were back home,
and how I wanted to return. I had limited understanding of my inner
language. It was a foreign tongue to me most of the time. I had never
thought about how I could choose what I was thinking about as a skill. In
hindsight, I think I missed a great deal of actually living in Victoria because
I was unable to leverage influence on my own thoughts. I was physically in
the moment and mentally in the past. This went on for months before I had
life shake it out of me by bringing a series of small crises to jerk my
thinking into the present.
Self-talk understanding is a technique I offer to many groups I work with
under the umbrella of management skills or people-influencing skills. It
asks you to imagine what another person’s self-talk may be. The challenge
with this understanding is then to speak it, albeit tentatively out loud. This
means you are putting language to what you are guessing may be the self–talk of your
listener, and then speculating out loud as to what you think they
are thinking. This is empathetic thinking; it is a stretch for many of us who
spend more of our time thinking about what we will say next rather than
listening to another person’s words let alone, not only listening, but trying to
imagine what the thinking that is informing the other person’s words may
be. Geez. I warned you, it is complicated, but well worth it. It is asking you
to equip the other person’s point of view, not accept it or deny it. It is asking
you to hear and validate the other’s perspective, perhaps before they have
articulated it very well themselves.
5 Self-Talk Exercises:
1. Positive In and Positive Out.
Try to use the same language on the inside as you do on the outside. This is
much easier to write about than to do. Positive language frames our
thinking and can create the platforms our thoughts use to establish our
2. Affirmations and Confirmations.
Positive thinking is not enough. It is the starting point of a re-orientation to
the language that you think and ultimately that you choose to use to interact
successfully with others. Creating your own tag lines of positive phrases and imagery
can be how to take this to the next level. “I am good at …” Make sure you are in the
present tense. Be clear and specific and then like the shampoo bottles say, repeat.
3. Thought Pointing.
Ever wonder why we don’t spend more time thinking about those things that may
interest us like art, love or a special memory or person? This is a
technique that allows you to direct your thinking and to luxuriate in a
specific idea or image of your choice. No, it’s not “a happy place” although
it could be. Instead, it is a choice of what you want to think about. You can
develop an inventory of thoughts that you point to one spot, thing, or object
that you enjoy. These thoughts are a convenient way to re-experience a
memory, ignite your creativity about a current situation or challenge, or
even to forecast and plan with relish. The pointed thoughts are how to
consciously keep your thinking about your thinking at the forefront of your
4. Increase Your Self-Awareness.
Increase your self-awareness by getting involved in opportunities to know
yourself better. What does this mean? It means taking that ½ day course on
communication skills that your HR Dept. has arranged for your
organization, even though you’re busy (who isn’t?) and despite you being
pretty darn sure your communicate skills are just fine.
It is easy to be grateful when there is plenty and not so when there is
scarcity. The importance of your self-talk is never higher than when you
feel un-ease. It’s in those situations like a job interview, or when you see a
tractor trailer jackknife on the highway in the lane next to yours, that our
deliberate self-talk will allow us to better frame the situation so we can see
the opportunity for gratitude. Sometimes, I know it’s been this way for me
more than once, you have to scrape the very bottom of the gratitude barrel
to find it, but there is always some there. You just have to reach with your
thoughts to find it.
Diana is President of The Soft Skills Group Inc.www.tssg.ca. She is a senior training & development
professional 20 years of experience in delivery, design & consulting with Fortune 500 companies,
Universities & Colleges in Canada, the USA, Asia and Europe.
Diana teaches regularly at the Schulich Executive Education Centre (SEEC) of the York University where her
feedback ranks her within the top 3% of all faculty.
An energetic, results-oriented consultant, Diana takes great pride in influencing the human side of
business. She has delivered training for banks, investment firms, law firms, and wealth management
corporations. Diana has worked with organizations in many industries —including Finance,
telecommunications, health care, manufacturing, transportation, natural resources, not-for-profit and
governments and crown corporations. Her experience has breadth from working with a variety of
professionals from new hires to seasoned executives, C Suite level; totaling over 25,000 clients to date.
In 2016 Diana’s first book Soft Skills Volume 1, was published; a clever go-to resource for professionals to
make thoughtful choices to improve themselves and set themselves up for success.
In 2019 Diana’s first E-book The Soft Cs, was published; it delivers high impact content with a great sense of
humour; providing the insights and tools that you need to put your best self forward