Thursday, 6 August 2015

The WHAT and HOW of talking to yourself

Working with people across various sports means I get to have some great insights into some of the common problems that stop people in their tracks.

Some of the work I do with people is around how they use language to get themselves motivated, give themselves excuses (a lot of the time without realising) and the fact that what they say to themselves in training, in competition and in down time is really important.  Words are very context specific for instance many of my clients will know that saying something along the lines of 'I'll try to do my practice tonight' is going to get picked up very quickly by me and more than likely end up with me quoting Yoda 'Do or do not, there is no try'.  As in this context the word ‘try’ is giving them a get out clause.  However if we have come up with a new strategy that we want to test it out then saying 'I'll try that over this week and make a note of what happens' is great.  So context is all important.

So using language well can be really useful, and now comes the next part, how are you saying it?  Take for instance the line 'I'll try that over this week and make a note of what happens' - say it yourself in a really bored voice - do you think you'd do it..? Now say it to yourself in your most motivated voice - how do you feel about it now?  Which tone motivates you and which tone means you've forgotten about it already?

Here in lies the crux of the matter - what is the relationship we have with ourselves?   As I’ve said on many occasions we all have different parts within us and they all have a different voice.  What we are looking for is to have what we are saying and how we are saying it to have congruence and therefore we can believe in it and deliver the results we want.  To do this you need to make sure you can really hear what and how you are talking to yourself so you can then ask the question, ‘Do I really believe in this, am I going to take the action’.  If not then you can find out what needs changing and do something about it.  

A great question to ask when you’re listening to yourself is ‘How does this make me feel?’  Are you motivating yourself or beating yourself up?  Again you can hear the difference for yourself by exploring different ways of saying the same thing.  Be determined and say ‘I am going to nail this next training session’ and then perhaps say it in a flippant tone, as before what is the difference you notice.  As always this is about exploring what works for you and gaining understanding so in any given moment you can make the choice of what and how you talk to yourself to deliver results. 

So make friends with the voices in your head and understand WHAT you say and HOW you say it are both important and can make the difference between you and the competition – giving you the EDGE


"You don't win tournaments by playing well and thinking poorly.“
Lee Westwood, Golfer



Some may align this blog post with the often quoted Mehrabian stats from his 1968 study and before you do remember that it is all about context and those figures have been grossly misused by people in the communications business, as Albert Mehrabian said in a Radio 4 interview in 2009 in answer to the statement ‘93% of communication is non-verbal’.


‘Whenever I hear that misquote or misrepresentation of my findings I cringe, because it should be so obvious to anybody who would use any amount of common sense that that’s not a correct statement.’