Self-talk isn’t the only thing running around our minds, especially when we are communicating with other people. Here are a few ways your mind may seemingly sabotage you into complicating communication or events:
- Denial or minimization of an event or feelings: “What I said/did wasn’t really that bad. She’ll get over it.”
- Hearing only the negative and filtering out the positive. This means that our attention zeros in exclusively on the negative information contained in a message. For instance, if your boss says, “Nice work today but in the future don’t forget the last page of the paperwork,” and you only hear that you did a mediocre job, you are probably filtering out the positive.
- Seeing only one aspect of an event or only hearing one part of a conversation. Have you ever heard the expression “you only hear what you want to hear”? This is similar to the one above: imagine you come home and your spouse is tired from a long day with the kids. Your spouse can be totally loving but the moment he/she asks you for more help with the chores, you decide that he/she is too demanding and doesn’t appreciate all the work you do.
- Holding too strongly and rigidly to a your beliefs, not being open to seeing a different perspective.
- All or nothing thinking. Seeing people as all good or all bad for example.
- Assuming things about others and taking them as fact. This at times also includes thinking you know what another thinks or feels.
These patterns can coexist with other negative self-talk, as we read in the previous section. The good news is you are capable of redirecting these thought patterns! Let’s look at how.
Criticizing Thought Patterns
Perhaps you noticed the list above has a lot to do with perception (how you view events from your perspective). We worked earlier with increasing empathy, recognizing unmet needs and noticing our own criticizing thoughts. These thoughts can be irrational, which is to say, not based on fact but rather emotions or opinion
Identifying the facts of a situation will help you start the process of challenging and even shifting your thought patterns. You can start to free yourself from your own limiting and rigid thinking. First however, you have to honestly identify the facts.
What is a fact? A fact is indisputable. Think of it as data, as a detail about someone, something, or a situation that can be experienced by everyone. An opinion is our reaction or our interpretation of a fact or the data in front of us. A big part of this work is learning to separate facts from opinions.
Let’s take a look at how this might work when challenging some negative thinking.
- Joe should have known to pick up radishes from the grocery store.
Fact: Joe did not pick up radishes at the grocery store
Opinion: Joe should have known we needed radishes, Joe didn’t pick up
radishes because he didn’t know (maybe they were out of radishes).
- My roommate is so disrespectful he always expects me to pick up after him.
Fact: My roommate’s belongings are not picked up
Opinion: My roommate is disrespectful, my roommate expects me to pick up
- He probably wants to steal my wallet because he looks financially worse off than I am.
Fact: He is wearing an older jacket that is not clean and has worn edges, he
has facial hair, his hair is not combed.
Opinion: He wants to steal my wallet, he is financially worse off than I am.
Continue monitoring your negative self-talk and as soon as you realize it is occurring, try to reframe it to something positive. Ex. You may find yourself being hard on yourself for not completing your tasks for the day at work. Instead of solely focusing on the incompletion part, spend some time reflecting on how hard you worked while there, and the quality of the work you did complete.
Think of a few ways criticizing thought patterns have affected your life.
Look back to your previous records of negative self-talk. What was happening during that time? Is there a pattern you can find? Be mindful of triggers of negative self-talk. Always be mindful of triggers of positive self-talk. What makes you feel confident? What makes you feel loved?