The communication model shows us the flow of messages and feedback. To be considered is also the context and culture of the sender and the receiver. Additionally, we always contend with noise.

Noise can be internal, such as lack of attention. It can be external, like the loud honking of a horn or the sight of an attractive person walking past. Noise can also be semantic. Yes, even though we may  both be using the English language, we cannot rely on a 100% agreement as to meanings.

I want to touch on internal noise today. Sometimes it takes the form of self-talk.

Self-talk can be negative or positive.

Very often we don’t even realize we are engaging in negative self-talk. It becomes a reflex. We are confronted with a situation and seemingly directly feel the resulting emotion. Sandwiched in between the situation and the emotion, however, is our belief in the form of self-talk that filters the situation for us and based upon which we (often unintentionally) create our reaction.

Our belief about the situation and its consequences for us acts as a filter, a framework or roadmap for our behaviors and feelings.

For example, your girlfriend tells you that she wants to end the relationship. Depending on your belief/self-talk you could react in several ways.

  1. Perhaps you believe, “Whew, what a relief. Now I don’t have to break up with her.” This would result in a positive emotional consequence.
  2. Or you believe, “I wish she would change her mind. This is not what I want, but I know I will be ok. I will miss her, but my life will go on. I can be happy without her and will probably find another girlfriend some day.” The result would be calm, neither happy, nor upset.
  3. If you believe, “No, she cannot break up with me. I cannot live without her; I am nothing without her.” Your resulting emotional consequence will be upset.

Since we “think” our belief so instantaneously, we don’t usually hear our negative self-talk, but we sure do feel the consequences! That makes it difficult to change.

So the first step is awareness.

First, it is important to understand and even alter your language around being upset. So, “she upset me” is not accurate. You upset yourself. Remember, it is what you think about the situation that upset you.

Second, it is necessary to understand the underlying assumptions that cause your beliefs. Stop and ask yourself about it. Why would such-and-such be good or bad? What is it that you think about it?
Become aware of your own beliefs.

Next time we’ll discuss the necessary steps toward changing negative self-talk.