Negative self-speak isn’t just something that can affect our moods and our decision making, but it can have an unintended outward affect on those around us.
If you are in a leadership position and you have a tendency to be hard on yourself, especially in difficult moments, you are most likely causing dissonance with your team.
Well, if we assume that the judgmental tone and words are something that you save only for the conversations inside your head (which is a pretty conservative assumption) and that you work really hard at being positive and upbeat when speaking in front of your team, you might think that you don’t have a problem with dissonance. The reality is that just having those thoughts in front of your team is probably causing significant dissonance for your team.
(“Dissonance” is described in the book Primal Leadership as the negative emotional effect a leader can have on the workplace.)
As actors know, often what we are feeling or thinking internally can and will affect our body language externally. You may think that you are being hard on yourself but kind to your team, but the team won’t see that. What they will see is a disingenuous behavior on your part, with you trying to be kind when speaking to them, but look brooding and sullen when they are speaking. As far as you may be concerned, you are just thinking hard about the question (and probably falling into a habit of motivating yourself with negative thinking), but the impact on those around you is still the same.
We look to our leaders to find cues about how we are doing. If you as a leader are deep in negative self-talk, your body language and facial expressions will look dark and foreboding.
(Just imagine what his self-talk is like…)
The good news is that there are easy fixes to this, if you are willing to change some habits.
1. Awareness: You can’t change what you don’t know exists. Get feedback, get a coach, pay attention to those voices in your head. If you are a perfectionist, then this part is crucial.
2. Breathe: When we go into negative talk, we often hold our breath. Breathing can have the positive affect of letting go of those thoughts and relaxing your face and body.
3. Empathy: Focus your attention on your team. They are what matters, not the stories in your head. Resonant leaders are incredibly successful at putting their attention on the people around them. Remember, they won’t follow you fully if they don’t think you see and respect them.
The goal is to be a trustworthy, calm and resonant leader of people.
Negative self-talk, no matter how successful it was in motivating you to get to where you are, will not make you more motivational or clear.