One of the most useful nuggets of wisdom I’ve acquired over the years has been from a friend of mine.
Mich and I have brilliant conversations, which always leave me feeling lifted and motivated.
One day we started talking about communication and how we (humans) speak to one another.
Mich told me about a conversation she’d had with another friend about how we speak to ourselves. The friend had advised someone, ‘Try to listen to how you are speaking to yourself. Think about how you would speak to a friend; you’d be kind and honest. You’d want to help them, not put them down.’
This new perspective Mich shared with me really got me thinking. I was extremely negative with myself, even over very minor faults, like forgetting something or being clumsy. I would harshly criticise myself and of course, it made mountains out of mole hills.
I noticed I’d been doing this all my life. And I noticed almost everyone I knew behaved like this too.
I considered myself a very empathic, caring and giving person to others, but when it came to speaking to myself I wasn’t kind or caring at all. Mich’s friend was right; I wouldn’t be so mean to a friend, so why was I being so horrid to myself?
This inspired a challenge to speak more kindly to myself. I began catching myself each time I’d make comments under my breath like ‘stupid!’ or ‘why did you do that?!’
Biting my tongue allowed me a few extra seconds to reflect on what had happened, and decide if it was worth negatively remarking on. It took a little time, but soon I wasn’t reacting in the ways I used to, and the affects where quite amazing.
I started to feel much better about myself. I didn’t feel silly or guilty over every small mistake I made. I allowed myself space to deal with the issue, however big or small, with a positive response, not with a grumpy or angry attitude. Sometimes I even laughed or smiled a little if I dropped or forgot something.
I’d been making small insignificant details matter, and take huge precedence in my life. But now I realised how so many things didn’t matter. So many little things happen throughout the day which don’t deserve our time or energy.
When I stopped focusing on these things and giving them negative feedback, my attitude, to myself and other people, changed so much. I wasn’t impatient, I thought about others needs more, and I started to see more and more beauty in the world.
Perhaps it sounds crazy to think so much can come from a seemly small change in behaviour, but it’s true! The more responsible you are for your thoughts, when you are positive and kind with yourself, the more this is reflected in the rest of your life.
Since developing this habit I’ve been able to deal with challenges with a calmer, happier attitude. I’ve built a positive relationship with myself, so now I’m able to face difficult times with more strength and endurance, as well as having a naturally positive attitude when speaking to myself.
This feeds into my interactions with others. I think of strangers as friends, who I only want to help and support. And when I’m with friends, I encourage more positive and helpful conversation, rather than focusing on negative thoughts, however superficial.
Of course, this has been a steep learning curve. I’m not perfect yet, but I have come across some resources which have helped me develop and grow this as a skill.
The book ‘Non-violent Communication’ by Marshall Rosenberg, for example, offers huge insight and wisdom throughout and offers the reader methods to apply a way of speaking which supports themselves and their needs, as well as those who they are speaking with.
He teaches how to say what we mean without getting confused with language and draws on his own experiences as a psychologist and educator. Rosenberg has worked within communities, professional environments, schools, and with couples, helping them ‘meet their needs’.
Rosenberg also writes about how much of what we express is not through our speech, but through body language and how this affects conversations and how others feel about and respond to us.
This book has been invaluable for me in identifying my own communication habits and how to shift them into supportive language, for myself and within my relationships.
Learning more about how we speak to ourselves and to each other has been an amazing process, and I’m sure it will continue over time. As I said, I’m no expert, but I’m definitely practising what I have learnt so far.
It’s been an incredible transformation and so rewarding to see these changes in myself, and how it’s fed into my relationships, my working life, and how I experience the rest of the world.
Simply speaking for the sake of speaking can be really detrimental to our personal and business lives. If you can relate to this, and I offer you a little challenge…
Try to catch yourself the next time you react negatively to a mistake you make; listen to the words you used, (or were about to use), and how you said them. Think about how they made you feel. Are they helpful and kind, or mean and aggressive?
If you do speak harshly to yourself, take some time to think of calmer and more positive ways you can respond, and start to let go of the negative speech you don’t need.
Take care, and remember; speak to yourself as you would like others to speak to you!