GPF: Why Most Self-Talk Doesn’t Work

It’s “Guest Post Friday!” On Fridays, I feature insight from individuals who have helpful input about the mental side of fitness, training or life. All of the other posts on this site are written about me, so I like to share different perspectives (especially so that you don’t get too tired of my ramblings). I love this post, and couldn’t wait to share it.

This was written by Darren Vesterfelt and was originally posted here (if you want to read the whole thing).

Why Most Positive Self Talk Doesn’t Work And What to Do About It


“Recently, I heard something that made me rethink my un­challenged love for positive self talk.

I was listening to one of my favorite business authors, Dan Pink present at a conference.

He’s a really smart guy who has written a few New York Times Bestsellers, including one I love called To Sell Is Human.

He said something about self­ talk that really caught my attention.

Namely, he said, it just plain doesn’t work.

At first I felt myself getting a little defensive. “It doesn’t work?! What do you mean it doesn’t work? It has to work!”

But then I listened as he went on.

Basically, he said, research shows that positive self talk like “you can do it!” doesn’t have much of an impact on performance because the self ­talk has nothing to do with performance itself. It isn’t clear or directive.

Self talk doesn’t have any clear plan to follow.

On the other hand, if you were to talk to yourself like this: “I’ve done presentations like this dozens of times before and every time I’ve told the story about that one business owner,that’s gone really well.”

Or if you were to say, “Your biggest weakness when you’re facing a hard day is you get overwhelmed too easily. So watch out for that.”

That’s the kind of positive self talk that works.

That positive self talk gives you a clear path you can follow ahead.

Positive self talk that works isn’t just “rah­rah you can do it” self­ talk but it comes with a plan.

Makes sense, right?

In case you were wondering if this works, I tried it.

A few weeks ago I had to have a hard conversation with someone I loved and I was nervous. I gave myself this positive self ­talk beforehand.

I told myself, “your biggest weakness in these conversations is that you let your emotions get the best of you and you lose sight of what you’re trying to communicate.” I also said to myself, over and over again, “Don’t forget—the objective of the conversation is ______.”

And you know what?

That conversation went better than I could have expected. I stayed cool and collected and was able to direct the conversation in the way I wanted it to go.”




About The Author: Daren Vesterfelt and Allison Vesterfelt are contributors to the Storyline Conference which I attended last year. They both write on and aim to help you find your voice and be purposeful with your life.




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