By Emma Serlin
July 9, 2019

“The more a person allows the critical voice to affect the way they speak, the more they retreat inwards, away from good communication.”

Last week I ran a workshop in Glasgow for a very well known consultancy firm. One of the big things that came up was how we all have voices in our heads that talk to us, telling us how well we are or aren’t doing. This got me thinking about how they can be friend or foe, and so often are foe.

We deal with these internal voices all the time at London Speech Workshop. Clients often come to us with a deeply rooted idea that they are inherently bad at communicating in some way. And then what happens—it becomes a self fulfilling prophecy! The more a person allows the critical voice to affect the way they speak, the more they retreat inwards, away from good communication. When this happens, they are no longer present and the listener starts to switch off. Then the speaker sees the listener switching off, and their internal voices jump on it, going “see, I told you that you were boring her, now look at her, she’s actually yawning!” etc.

In the workshop I ran, I was able to notice the exact moment when the internal voices started creeping in for a participant, and could point it out to them. It coincided with the moment where they stopped using the tools they had just learnt on how to be a great communicator, undoing all their great work thus far.

So what is the answer to fighting these internal voices?

  1. Avoid taking all your information from outside and responding accordingly. Instead, if you decide to speak well, keep it up, no matter what feedback you think you are getting from outside. Because one thing is for sure, your listener is not going to be any more engaged if you keep retreating inwards.
  2. Change the script and tell yourself something else. This is a trick which acclaimed psychologist Marisa Peer advocates as a pillar of her techniques—when you notice your internal voice saying something negative, tell yourself something positive instead.

The power our minds have to give us direction about how we are feeling is huge. What we forget is that we can change the script in our head. Literally – try it now. Say “I’m really really happy” in your head. I just did it and it made me smile. Now try “I’m really really sad” in your head. Notice your mood shift subtly? Well, mine did.

So next time you are talking to someone and they look like they are bored, and then your internal voice chimes in with how terrible you are, rewrite the script! How great would it be to have an internal voice saying “You’re great! They love you, keep it coming!” instead of pushing you down? Carry on being a great communicator regardless of the niggling voices. You’ll be amazed at the difference.

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