I was out for dinner this past weekend with a girlfriend from the UK and we were laughing ourselves silly because there were a couple of times that I completely mistook what she was saying for something else. The two of us, although we were speaking the same language had the stories going in two very different directions. Needless to say, we had a great time laughing about how the exact same set of words could be understood in two very distinctly different ways. This fun night out laughing amongst my friends got me to thinking that the exact same thing happens sometimes but not in a positive and fun way, instead, when we mistakenly negatively perceive something that someone says to be the complete opposite of what was meant to be said. Why is it sometimes that we let our “self-talk” translate what other people are saying?
Self-Talk is that inner voice, the inner monologue that makes opinions and evaluates what you do, what you say, how you feel and how you “translate” what others are saying. Self-talk can be positive or negative, it is the negative type that is often destructive and limits ourselves from our full potential, to question ourselves and live in self-doubt. I did a quick search on the internet to verify something that I was pretty certain of, that people who suffer from clinical depression or mental illness tend to have higher levels of this form of negative self-talk. I know this, and was very personally reminded of this, this past week when my mother completely miss interpreted something that I had said in the most negative, completely wrong manner than what I had meant. Her negative self-talk concocted up this negative, hurtful translation of the words that came out of my mouth. In her mind, I said something that was perpetuated out of some miss-belief that her negative inner monologue convinced her to believe.
It’s unfortunate that sometimes what we “hear” is not in fact what was said at all. So aside from predispositions due to mental illness, why are some people more on the negative end then the positive end? What traits do people with positive self-talk tend to have? In the 1990’s, two gentleman: Peter Salovey and John D. Mayer coined the term 'Emotional Intelligence', describing it as "a form of social intelligence that involves the ability to monitor one’s own and others’ feelings and emotions, to discriminate among them, and to use this information to guide one’s thinking and action". People with higher EQ’s have more positive self-talk, they are more self- aware of their emotions and can react accordingly in social situations. There is a plethora of literature and education now available on this very topic, everything from books, on-line articles to full day seminars. I myself have read and taken a full day’s course on Emotional Intelligence and learned so much about myself, and how I can improve certain aspects of my EI that I may not have scored as high as I would have liked to have scored. It’s not always easy to be vulnerable to criticism, but to grow; one must truly learn to step outside of his/her comfort zone and take the feedback, take the analysis and be open to learning techniques on being better.
The self-talk will always be present, that inner voice is never going to be silenced, it is our job and our responsibility to try and train the positive voice to overpower the negative one. Are you aware of your self-talk? Aware of how you react to what people are saying or doing around you. One useful tool is to keep a journal to record your days and see if you find a pattern in triggers. Are there people or situations that trigger the positivity or conversely negativity more than others?
At the end of the day, we control the outcomes of how we deal with situations, how we interpret what people say. It is up to us to try and ensure that we do the most we can do to keep things from getting lost in translation.