Using Positive Self-Talk

Asperger’s & NLD Career Letter, January, 2016

For three years, Elizabeth worked as a sales associate in a retail store. What she really wanted was to become an accountant. Yet every time she thought about returning to college to finish her degree, she would become paralyzed. “All I can think is that I’ll flunk out, like last time,” she said.

Whenever Stephen began to feel pressured at work he would compulsively ask his co-workers basic questions about writing computer code. “I know the answers,” he explained, “but I want others to reassure me that they are correct.” Stephen’s colleagues were tired of the interruptions, and had complained to the head of the programming department.

David had been looking for a job for three months. He would visit job boards once every two weeks, and respond to three or four openings. He did not follow up with employers, or utilize any other job search strategies. He became very discouraged about not being called for interviews. “What’s the use of looking,” he asked, “no one will hire me anyway.”

Elizabeth, Stephen and David allowed their negative thinking to stop them from considering options and taking action toward their goals. All three tended to perseverate on what was or could go wrong, further eroding their confidence. They were unaware of the power of positive self-talk.

Self-talk is intrapersonal communication. It refers to statements that you say to yourself silently, in your mind. A person may not be consciously aware of the messages he sends to himself, particularly the negative ones such as, “I’ll never get hired,” or “I always say the wrong thing.” Thoughts like these can become self-fulfilling prophecies when an individual believes that they are true.

Conversely, positive self-talk can help you manage anxiety and solve problems. Here are some examples of how to use this technique:

▪ Prepare for meetings, interviews, or performance reviews. Mark’s supervisor told him to participate more often in department meetings. Instead of allowing his self-defeating thoughts to take over, he began preparing himself for success by mentally repeating statements such as: “I am competent and have two promotions to prove it.”

▪ Restore emotional calm. If you find yourself becoming anxious, frustrated, or angry, reassure yourself with statements like, “I can handle this situation” … “When I am calm, I will figure out what to do.”

▪ Solve a problem. Instead of impulsively questioning colleagues, Stephen began talking himself through assignments: “I know what to do” … “If I get stuck, the first thing I’ll do is research the problem online.”

▪ Set goals and monitor progress. Elizabeth used positive self-talk to break the college application process into manageable steps. For example, “Today I will focus only on reviewing the form.”

It takes time and practice before positive self-talk becomes automatic. Some people remind themselves of their positive statements by placing sticky notes in discreet locations in their workspace, or leaving themselves voice mail messages. One woman kept her statements in a purple folder, under her computer keyboard. “Every day when I see that folder, it reminds me to calm down and think instead of panic,” she says.

If you frequently experience high levels of anxiety, anger or other emotions, or find it impossible to stop perseverating on a situation, you should seek professional assistance. If, however, you have a habit of negative thinking, commit to giving positive self-talk a try!

Copyright 2016, Barbara Bissonnette, Forward Motion Coaching