[This post is part of a series on Communication Skills Exercises for Business and Life. If you don’t see a Table of Contents to the left, click here to view the series, where you’ll get more value than reading just this post.]
I’ve found tremendous success with a conversation technique I developed recently. When you get it, it’s almost too simple to do, but it takes a practice to get it. And it can be scary at first. But with practice it builds and shows confidence and self-awareness.
It follows up and builds on the most effective self-awareness exercise I know that I wrote about before. I found another write-up of a variation called “How to listen to and change your self talk” for comparison.
Referring to the variation, the important part of the exercise is to identify and write your self talk.
Self Talk is the way your mind speaks to you in all situations, from daily routines to difficult life events. It is the voice that can either encourage you or chastise you. The good news is by listening to your inner dialog and shifting it to become more in line with what you really want, you can transform your life.
- Observe the Self Talk you do on a daily basis. For an entire day, make note of the way you Self Talk in any given situation; pay attention to both positive Self Talk and negative Self Talk. The key to this step is to simply stand back and listen to the tone of your Self Talk, without making any adjustments just yet.
- Decide what type of Self Talk you want to hear. If you want to be more positive, look at the various situations throughout your day and see how you can change your prospective of them into something that will be positive.
So separate from communication skills, I recommend doing this exercise to increase your self-awareness and ability to manage how you perceive things, which affects how you give meaning to things.
With experience you sense and can change your self talk easily, a tremendously valuable skill. Most people aren’t even aware they have self talk at all even though they “hear” it all the time every day.
I recommend practicing the exercise I referred to above until you hone your skills at identifying and expressing your self talk.
Once you’re good at identifying your self talk, the exercise is simply to voice it in conversation.
That’s it. You just voice your self talk.
I tend to do it when there’s a lull. I look at something and talk about it and see where my thoughts take us. It takes (and shows) confidence.
At first it’s weird and hard because self-talk can be hard to identify, once you start talking you change it, and you worry you might say something stupid or judgmental. With experience you get over these things.
It works amazing. It gets three main reactions
- People get drawn into your world.
- People remark how you seem able to talk about anything. They look up to you.
- People open up to you. They sense your confidence and relaxation and allow themselves to relax their communication.
I realized a master of this technique is Robin Williams in his early days. He could talk rapidly for hours about whatever crossed his mind. He studied for years at Juilliard to create that freedom (as Martha Graham’s quotes on expression and freedom suggest). He engages the listener not just with what he says but that he dares to say it. He makes you think to yourself, “That’s exactly what I think. I just never thought to say it.” People say that to me when I do this technique. For some reason you love hearing that others think just like you. Maybe you empathize with them.
Jerry Seinfeld seems to use the technique to generate material. He voices simple observations about regular things. He refines it for comedy, but you don’t need to be as funny as him to get people interested in what you say.
I also realized that people who voice what’s on their minds tend to have high status. People with low status don’t think their thoughts are worth other people’s time. People with high status take for granted what they say has value. People love to see celebrities on late night talk shows talk about normal things normally, exclaiming “Oh my god, Brad Pitt doesn’t like holes in his socks either! He’s just like us!”
With practice I don’t just say random stupid stuff. But the point isn’t what you say. It’s how you say it and that you have the courage and confidence to let go and just say it.
I should probably give some examples, but maybe you get it. If people want examples I’ll post some.
Or if you have questions.
EDIT: I added examples of Robin Williams and Jonathan Winters.
Learn to make Meaningful Connections
with a simple, effective exercise from my book, Leadership Step by Step.
- Step by step instructions
- Video examples of me and Marshall Goldsmith
- An excerpt from my book