“If you don’t execute your ideas, they die”
Roger von Oech, 1948 – present. American author, speaker, consultant and toy-maker
Ever heard about or witnessed those “motivational speakers” who say the best way to get yourself going is to repeatedly tell yourself how good you are? Ever come across writings that urge you to pump yourself up; that you should remind yourself how fabulous and unstoppable you are? That such declarations of unshakable belief will get us through any adversity and rejection we may experience?
Well for most of us that, so often, does not seem to work for any length of time, if at all, for there seems to be something not quite right about it. And in some cultures it can be quite contrary to their thinking and so cause a feeling of uneasiness and be counter-productive. This type of self-talk is known as declarative – one simply declares something. We are constantly talking to ourselves and we can engage in positive talk or negative talk.
Positive self-talk: “I’m the greatest” or “I’m strong” or “I can do this” or “We’ve got the best team”
Negative self-talk: “I’m no good at maths” or “I’m too junior to contribute” or “There’s no way I can sell this idea” or “I can’t remember names”
Whether this talk is chest-thumping or put downs, it tends to be declarative and it states what will be or what is. Now I’m not saying that positive or negative self-talk does not have its place, but its overuse can be damaging.
So what’s the alternative? Well the social science research shows that through questioning of self we can achieve better and more lasting results. This is known as interrogative self-talk and it not only shifts emotions, it shifts linguistic categories as it moves from making statements to asking questions. The questions aren’t geared to providing self-doubt, but to us being in control and taking action. Interrogative self-talk elicits answers and then provides us with the strategies to carry out the tasks. It also inspires thoughts of autonomy and motivations to pursue a goal. So let’s give some examples and you be the judge.
Declarative: “I’m the best, convincing these people will be easy”
Interrogative: “Can I sell this idea?” and you might respond to yourself with “Yes I can as I’ve made similar presentations in the past. I know the material very well and feel confident in answering questions or admitting I don’t know. Last time I used too many PowerPoint slides so this time I’ll only make use of the ones to get the five main points across”
Declarative: “I’ll tell the team they’re the best and will win”
Interrogative: “Can the team win?” and you might respond “Yes we can as we have prepared well and each member knows their task. I’ll ask them to clearly define their tasks and responsibilities and how it impacts on the other members. Through questioning we’ll have clarity about what we are to achieve and when”
And now it’s your turn
Declarative: “I / We are going to be in the top five”
Interrogative: “How am I / we going to be in the top five?”
If you have any comments or questions please feel free to contact me
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