Have you ever met someone in the workplace who is fearful of speaking up, or fearful of doing something, something that, to you or I, would seem quite straightforward and not a big deal? For example, one thing I hear often is when a person wants to speak to their boss about something sensitive, they’ll say, “Oh, I can’t speak to my boss. I can’t go in there and give my opinion. I can’t tell them what I think. They won’t like it. That amounts to career suicide.”
Now, just think about this. If we’re observing somebody behaving like this and communicating with us like this, it’s easy for us to understand that it’s not as serious as they might believe or feel. But it’s different for them, because they’re caught up in the emotion of being in that situation, either having to speak with their boss or someone in a superior role to them in terms of your corporate structure, or saying something that won’t get approval from that person or that group.
Now, when we speak with people in a high grid or a more senior job role, we tend to put a label on them, as in, the director of, the head of, chief executive, director of finance, whatever it may be. That blind barrier can stop us from communicating authentically, communicating persuasively, and communicating honestly because people tend to comply with their boss and approval-seeking isn’t the best thing to go around doing. It’s not particularly healthy if you come to rely on it, but that’s a different podcast altogether.
The best way to deal with someone in authority is to take that label off, and replace with the label of colleague or human being, because you would be surprised at how many bosses do want to hear authentic dialogue, do want to hear good ideas, but never get to hear them because people don’t want to speak up. They don’t want to have that awareness of, “Yes, I can speak and be assertive and be heard and get my point across and help them want to engage in dialogue with me.” It’s more, “Oh, my god. I’ll wait for someone else to give them that news.” Or, “I’ll wait for someone else to come up with that idea, ” but it’s not particularly healthy.
Another way that people limit themselves with their self-talk is, “Oh, it’ll never work. It’s not worth trying. Oh, I’ve tried that before and it didn’t work, so it won’t work this time.” What we say is, “How many times did you try it,” and, “Oh, once or twice.” Well, once or twice isn’t really trying something, is it? If we’re going to fail, we need to have a bit more evidence that with a little bit of creative approach and thinking and doing, that we could find success, rather than just accept failure as the default mechanism. Please be aware what goes on in your head and in the head of your colleagues and team members directly impacts what goes on in the physical and the external environment in your organisation.
organisation can only alter what we think about, so a tip for you and also one you can share with your colleagues is if you catch yourself, or notice yourself coming up with things like, “Oh, that’s the wrong to do, I can’t speak up,” or “He’ll only disregard my ideas,” or, “It’ll never work,” catch yourself doing it. Then take a moment to think about, “Why would it never work?” Or, “If it could work, how could I, or how could we make it work? If that’s the problem that won’t work, how could we work together and collaborate to generate practical solutions, practical ideas that we can work on?”
Please control the self-defeating self-talk because if you are working on your own, there’s just one of you that you need to control. But if you’ve got a team of 10, 20, or an organisation of 2,000, there are others that you need to influence to help them understand that they can manage the limiting beliefs more effectively, that they are welcome to share their ideas. They’re actively encouraged to speak authentically. With a win-win outcome in mind, of course, not for the sake of speaking authentically, because sometimes that comes out badly. It causes more damage than it does good.
Notice yourself. For you, where is your self-defeating self-talk coming from? Is it, “I won’t try because it won’t work,” so, therefore, projecting failure into the future? Is it, “I’ve tried once or twice, it didn’t work, so it won’t work in future?” There’s a similar mechanism there. Is it, “If I speak up, there’ll be a consequence for me, that is, I’ll be in my boss’s bad books,” whatever they may be. Please consider and control your self-defeating self-talk, and then come up with solutions. “What does this actually mean? How can I change this? How can I improve this? How can I create a solution here?” Because controlling your self-talk is wonderful emotional self-awareness, and it’s also fantastic emotional self-management.
Please think about your limiting self-talk, and work on that now. Come up with three limiting self-talk points, and then create some meaning for them, and then notice what you’re going to do the next time they appear. Please do this now.