Good self-communication—using the right self-talk—can help you feel calmer and more focused. It can also change your level of success and even save your life.
Have you ever seen someone freak out about something when they first hear about it, but then keep talking or thinking about it and eventually realize that it wasn’t such a big deal after all? They burn a lot of emotional energy in that process. They might even end up tired and drained by the time they get to the end of that adrenaline response. Maybe you have been that person from time to time. For many people, it’s a habit. The bad news is it could not only give them a reputation for overreacting, but it could also decrease their productivity and affect their health negatively.
Self-communication is everything you communicate to yourself. It’s not just the words you direct to the mirror. It includes how you treat yourself because that sends a message to yourself as much as your words do.
Self-communication affects how we feel about things. That’s one reason it’s so important. Stress is real, and so are problems that arise in life. This is not to discount the seriousness of anything, just to show that it is possible to shrink the appearance of certain things to make them much more manageable.
That person who was reacting strongly likely used words that made the problem seem huge. It was overwhelming or threatening in their mind at that moment. As they kept talking or thinking, however, they came to the conclusion that it was manageable, they were capable of handling it, and then they felt better.
What if you could go straight to that point without the emotional upheaval? Wouldn’t saving time and energy be great?
Reframe a Stressor
Various experts use different words or terms for this process. You might hear it called Transformational Vocabulary®, reframing, or de-escalation. No matter what you call it, it is an important and effective technique. Simply by changing the words you use when you’re talking about something, you’ll change the way you feel about that thing. You can use this to your advantage and reduce your stress level.
Pick something that is causing you stress. Perhaps it’s a person or a situation at work, or a goal you haven’t met yet. There is pressure on you regarding it and stress surrounding it. Think about it for a moment. What is the story you’re telling yourself about that? What adjectives did you just use?
Perhaps you said some of these:
• Not enough
Let’s use Julie as an example. She had 49 tasks on her to-do list for the day. As she looked at the list, she told herself, “This is insane! It’s impossible to get all this done in one day. I’m definitely going to get fired.” She ran her hand through her hair so quickly that she tore out a small strand. She used the words “insane” “impossible” and “definitely.” She frightened herself badly with the threat of being fired.
Now choose one of the statements you made. Rephrase it using words that make you feel calmer and more assured. Add at least one thing you can do to make the situation better.
Julie then changed her self-talk to the following: “This is a substantial list. It will be difficult to get this all done in one day, but I’m going to try.” She took a deep breath and nodded. “If I don’t get this all done, there is a chance that I might get fired.” Her stress level had dropped noticeably.
She then took it a step further.
“This is a healthy list. It will be a challenge to get this all done in one day, but I’m up to that challenge. I can start by breaking it into groups of related tasks. If I don’t get this all done today, chances are high that I can finish it tomorrow.” She smoothed her shirt and stood up straighter.
When you state one thing you will do to improve the situation, be specific. Also, choose something you can do immediately. What one small step will you take to make it better?