What does your inner dialogue say about you?

Karen Meager and John McLachlan

Everyone says things to themselves in their own head, and some of us even talk out loud. But do you ever take the time to notice exactly what it is you are saying to yourself?

Internal dialogue is a very complex and interesting part of being human, and it varies from person to person: for some, it is like an incessant running commentary in their heads, while for others it’s the odd comment here and there. What is for sure is that our internal dialogue can be both a wise advisor and a very hurtful critic.

Did you know that as much as 80 per cent of the things we say to ourselves are negative? Back in the 1980s a study into the complexities and trends to do with self-talk was conducted, and it turned out some very interesting and useful findings.

When we know that such a vast majority of our inner dialogue is negative, a conscious adjustment of even 10 per cent can make a huge difference to the messages we reiterate to ourselves, and hence the way we feel and think about ourselves.

In spite of how it can feel at times, our inner dialogue is seldom just chatter going on in the background—whether we realise it or not, it is our brain’s way of efficiently communicating with the rest of us.

When we deconstruct the idea of inner dialogue, it is easier to work through. It can be easy to fall into the trap of wondering what good it does for one’s own mind to be so negative and discouraging, but as with many of the functions our bodies and minds carry out, there is a reason behind it, even if it doesn’t feel constructive. Our brains aren’t just up there, having a laugh at our expense; there is a method to the madness.

Start paying attention to exactly what your brain says to you during your inner monologue, and rather than linger on the specifics, consider the trends that come up. You may find it helpful to keep a diary and make simple notes about the recurrent themes you notice in the words you say to yourself.

"As much as 80 per cent of the things we say to ourselves are negative"

As with so many things, once you start to notice the root of the problem, you can look towards fixing it. For example, if you notice that you are constantly kicking yourself for having made bad choices in the past, consider what you can learn from this regret and carry into the future.

Are you the sort of person who notices the intricacies of language? For some people, specific wording can have a significant bearing on the message they take from what is being said.

In such cases, the real intent behind the message can be deduced from considering the words themselves. For example, if your mind is always alert to people displaying stupidity, it could suggest that you fear being thought of as stupid by others.

Consider this: whenever you point a finger, there are always three pointing right back at you. When you learn to look in the right way, you can find opportunities for self-improvement and development tangled up in the web of inner dialogue.

Notice the things you are in the habit of saying to yourself and think beyond the words themselves, into the tone. When you hear this dialogue, does it sound encouraging, or degrading, or saddened? What could these emotions tell you about what needs to change?

"If you're always alert to people displaying stupidity, it could suggest you fear being thought of as stupid"

If you are caught in the habit of asking "why is it always me?", this could be an indication of you feeling a lack of control over your life, and give you a pointer as to which direction to move in in order to make improvements.

You may be surprised at how many of these underlying problems you can work on yourself if you only take the time to spot the clues and decode the messages.

About Karen and John

Karen Meager and John McLachlan are the co-founders of Monkey Puzzle Training, two of only a handful of NLP Master Trainers in the UK and co-authors toTime Mastery; a number one best-selling book, and Real Leaders for the Real World.

Karen is a UKCP registered Psychotherapist (DipNLPt), an INLPTA certified NLP Master Trainer and a Principal Practitioner Member of the Association for Business Psychology. She is an NLPtCA recognised Supervisor and runs a supervision practice for Coaches and Therapists of any modality. She also has training in other psychological models, human development and social psychology which she uses in her training and coaching.

John is an INLPTA certified NLP Master Trainer, a Master Practitioner of NLP, a Principal Practitioner Member of the Association for Business Psychology, a Therapist and a Clinical Hypnotherapist.