Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Did You Hear What You Said?

A few days ago, I overhead a conversation between a young man and someone who would be a fan.  The young man had just completed what he considered to be a substantial project, and wanted to know if his friend wanted to check it out. His friend was very enthusiastic about listening, and she said, "I'd love to; I love your work."

The young man responded with, "Oh, you're very sweet -- delirious, but sweet..." indicating albeit jokingly that his friend's adulation was misplaced, and that his work wasn't worthy of her considerable regard, but he gave it to her anyway.

A little later, I reflected on that conversation and thought it sad, because the man had a product he was obviously proud of, but at the same time felt a need to denigrate it and put himself down, under the guise of a joke. Simultaneously -- if you really look at it -- he also insulted his friend (you're delirious) because if she liked his work she was obviously unaware.

Now, you might think it was just a cute joke and that he didn't really mean it; or perhaps that he was just being humble. But, for me, it was a perfect example of the kind of negative self talk we feed ourselves that reflects some inner fear or insecurity and the joking manner makes it almost unnoticeable. When I coach people, I catch such instances of negative self talk and point it out, and people are generally amazed to realize how they just trashed themselves. I just help develop an awareness of the pattern so they can intercept and break it.

We tend to think of self talk as the inaudible conversations have inside our heads, but often self talk isn't silent at all, and the audible words are even more damaging than the silent ones; and left unchecked, will continue to work against us and help sabotage our efforts. Many times -- in that way -- we are absolutely our own worst enemy... and we don't even notice it.

In this case, the gentleman... was me, and I dare say that even the strongest among us has an occasional slip of the tongue and "innocently" bash ourselves.  However, it's not innocent and with careful attention to our audible and inaudible self talk, we can detect it and break these patterns.

In this case, when I realized what I'd done, I sent an immediate email to my friend apologizing for my inadvertent disrespect, and told her that I did indeed value my work -- and her appreciation appreciate of my work -- and thanked her for taking an interest. She thought the apology was unnecessary, and she wasn't offended -- at least not for long. But I felt much better having noticed and made amends -- to her AND myself -- and in the process made THAT negative habit a bit weaker.

Habits -- the ties that bind.  Listen to your self talk -- all of it. Make an intent to notice what you say to yourself, or about yourself to others, and if you notice yourself saying something negative, reverse immediately, audibly, and break that habit. Yes... it really is important.

Have a awesome day.


1 comment:

Tamara Smith said...

So true Kelvin. One reason that many people (including myself) do this stems from a fear of rejection. It can feel like a big risk to show our work to someone we respect. What if they don't like it? What if they're critical of it? It seems to take some of the sting out of rejection if we reject ourselves right up front! But as we develop self-confidence, we need to let go of that coping mechanism and believe in ourselves and our work. If we don't, what does it matter who else does? Thank you for the excellent reminder!