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Playbook

Business Communication Skills: The Stories We Tell Ourselves

November 15, 2017

Business communications

We know that storytelling is a great way to enhance our business communication skills and develop relationships with others. In the same way that storytelling influences how others perceive us, it also influences how we see ourselves. Indeed, your very identity could be thought of as the result of years of stories you’ve told yourself about yourself and the world around you, and your interpretation of the stories others have told you too.

Also known as “self-talk,” the constant internal narrative about our experiences determines our ongoing perception of ourselves, including our self-confidence. As explained in AMA’s course Developing Effective Business Conversation Skills, a lack of self-confidence can manifest itself in different ways that influence how we are perceived by others. We may struggle to find the right words, speak too softly, or come across as uncomfortable or defensive. Other people may pull away from us as a result, which may continue to affect our self-image.

How negative self-talk influences communications

In short, there is a certain interdependence between your outlook and the outlook of those with whom you engage. The continual exchange of information between you and other people begins with the communication that takes place with one person—yourself.

Each of us has opinions about our individual gender, race, class, title, values, interpersonal skills, and intellectual abilities; and our internal monologue that encourages these opinions can range from self-aggrandizing to self-deprecating, with positive, good-for-you points in between. Consider:

  • At the one extreme, we might self-talk ourselves into thinking we are superior to others: “I am the best at this task; everyone likes me; nobody else knows what I know.”
  • At the other extreme, we might convince ourselves that we are lacking in some major way: “I am just not cut out for this; I don’t get along with people; I can’t do anything right.”

Positive self-talk is key in business communications

One good or bad thought does not necessarily have any obvious effect, but you can imagine how a few years of certain thoughts might influence your self-confidence and sense of well-being—and the impact that your resulting self-image and outlook can have on important decisions and relationships.

Even when it’s not in our best interest, we may give a lot of credence to our thoughts simply because of the way our brains work. Every time we encounter a new situation, our brains evaluate how similar it is to situations we’ve encountered in the past. Our past reactions inform our present ones, and every time we react in a similar way or reach a similar conclusion, the likelihood of reacting this same way in the future increases. This is why that one good or bad thought usually isn’t just one, and why past behavior is such a good indicator of future behavior.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. If I failed at some previous endeavor, it doesn’t mean I need to let myself be bullied by my own mind into thinking I will fail at a future one, and then act accordingly. I can choose the option of telling myself that I will succeed instead.

By acknowledging how easy it is to reinforce our own negative thinking, we can recognize negative self-talk when we think it and replace it with a more favorable narrative—forever changing our story, communication skills, and relationships for the better.

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About The Author

Sabita Ryder is a learning solutions manager at American Management Association. She is the point person for learning content, program delivery, and the customer experience as they relate to programs in the general communication and productivity portfolios at AMA.

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    […] by our self-talk, or the constant internal narrative we have about our experiences. Self-talk informs our perceptions of ourselves and the values and beliefs that make up our […]

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