Erica shakes things up by making I/O stand for Inner and Outer communication for the purpose of this episode. She talks about the ripple effect that inner communication can have on outer communication and shares real-life examples of this. Erica urges listeners to simply notice their thoughts and to find power in the word ‘nope’.
This is a transcript of Erica Mills Barnhart on the Communicate I/O podcast. You can listen to the episode here and listen to more episodes on Apple Podcasts, or wherever you enjoy listening to podcasts. Enjoy!
thoughts, communication, negative, human, words, important, talk, noticing, hear, public speaking, clients, neutralize, negativity, positivity, life, listening, recharge, positive, psychological safety
Erica Mills Barnhart
Well, hello there. When we talk about communication and leadership, often, we naturally think about the words, this makes sense, that other people end up reading, hearing receiving, right? The words that we say, speak, put out to the world. And that makes sense, as these words are important, right? The words we put out to the world are important because words matter, as they are matter. But the words that ended up making it out into the world, start silently, they begin in your mind as thoughts. And that’s what I want to talk about today. Now, it will be tempting and comfy, really, to keep this episode focused on say, the lifecycle of an important memo or talk or something that you’re going to give. How you mull it over in your mind for days, trying out ideas, see what feels right and striking, anything that doesn’t strike your fancy before it ever sees the light of day. This part of the communication process is important. I do not want to diminish it in any way. I am, I’m right there with you. I’m not running these days, which breaks my heart because I love running. But now I don’t want to walk you but I used to write all of my talks, all my speeches, do all my lesson planning all of it while I was out on the run. However you do that, that sort of internal work to get to the external, that’s important. And that’s not what we’re gonna talk about on this episode. No, no, it isn’t my friends. On this episode, we’re gonna talk about that on another episode. In this episode, we’re going to talk about what I refer to as your inner communication. It includes, and it’s often referred to as self talk, right. And this impacts everything in your life, including how you show up at work, how you show up as a leader, etc. So in this particular sense, the I in Communicate I/O refers to inner communication, and the O is outer communication. It’s simply not true that how we talk to ourselves has no bearing on how we show up for others, the more attention and the more intentional you get about your inner communication, the more effective clear and confident your outter communication will become. The single most important relationship any of us have, is with ourselves. It’s the relationship with intentionally or unintentionally invest the most amount of time and energy into, right, we are with ourselves all day, every day. And like whenever I hear someone talking about this, I’m like, well, that’s so obvious. And yet there’s something, there’s something existential about that because, you know, we’re not thinking that all day every day, like, look at me, here I am. It’s just me and Erica, again, that is not how we experience ourselves. And yet it’s true, right? So we have a more lively dialogue, simply by virtue of proximity to self with ourselves than we do with anybody else. It’s constant. And for many of us, it’s never ending that dialogue. It can almost be like white noise, because we recycle most of our thoughts day over day. I don’t have the statistic in front of me, but it is something like 90% of our thoughts are repeat thoughts, right? So the thoughts that we’re having today about our productivity, how we parents, our bodies, how we lead a meeting, whatever the case may be, we had very similar thoughts yesterday. Okay, strung together these thoughts which reflect the beliefs we hold about ourselves, create a narrative, this narrative, these narratives, there’s multiple narratives, these dictate our lives. They dictate our lives because our thoughts becomes feelings, feelings, well, you can loop back to thoughts. This is thought work, right? But that’s what leads to action. Okay, so so they really do dictate and impact our lives. So let’s look at those thoughts, shall we? Think back, if you can, on the last three things you’ve said to yourself. If you can, if you can only rummage up one, that’s totally cool. Start with the one. I mean, again, we often don’t notice because it’s kind of like white noise. It’s like what what’s I’m saying to myself? I don’t know I made that cup of tea. It’s my fourth cup of tea today. I’ve just anyone who was podcast for awhile knows I’m a tea drinker. Sometimes when I’m sleepy during the day, I have a fourth cup of Earl Grey tea. It just it happens. And I have opinions. And unless I’m attentive to these opinions, judgments, not super sweet, kind, compassionate words that I’m saying to myself in my mind, I could get carried away with as well like, Should I have a fourth cup of tea? A third? I only had three yesterday, you know, there’s a lot, totally not helpful. I’m gonna have the fourth cup of tea and I really don’t need to judge myself for that. Right? It just is and yet I still have a lot of dialogue not so much anymore, actually. But that is one of my ongoing thoughts, right about about many things, and it’s a judgmental thought, right? Were those thoughts kind, compassionate? Were your thoughts, that previous three that you had the previous based on the previous three things you said to yourself? Were they kind and compassionate? Or were they just possibly going on a limb here, negative, judgmental, harsh, anything in that category? Now, here’s the kicker, the follow up. Would you say those things to your bestie? Or your boss? Would you even say them to somebody that you didn’t like all that much? You know, for the most part, the answer is? No, most of us wouldn’t, because most of us are not super nice to ourselves. Right? And there are loads of reasons for negative self talk, again, inner communication being the norm, almost all self talk begins in childhood. And so many things do. And somehow and you can unpack this with you know, a counselor or a therapist is it is work worth doing. But somehow it keeps us safe, right? There’s a perk to this negative self talk, right? So for instance, if you’re a high achiever, now, you might have started saying things like, and, you know, at some point, oh, come on, you can do better than that you had 11 things on your list, and you only got through 10 today, really, that’s your A game. Right? And everybody self talk sounds different. It focuses on different things. And by the way, that was a real life example of something that I used to say to myself, somewhat regularly, until I got really on top of and turned around my inner communication. I value working hard achieving a lot doing what, there’s nothing wrong with this. These are my values. The problem is how I was talking to myself to get these results. I would never ever in a gajillion years say one of those things, anyone other than myself, like, I just wouldn’t say that to anybody. Why? Because they’re not nice things to say. That’s just not nice. So isn’t it interesting that somehow our norm, and what we have chosen to accept we are available to this negative self talk all the time we open ourselves up to it, and yet we are our most important person. So importantly, any self talk or inner communication, this shows up in your outer communication in some form or fashion. Again, words are matter whether they’re thoughts in your mind or words on a page. So once you have a thought, it takes physicality. Yes, I know that for some of you this, this may be new, and this is going to make your brain cramp or break or something. But they do they take on physicality. This is how we get neural pathways. Literally, they take up physicality and our brains. So if your self talk is negative, it’s going to generate negativity. If they’re positive, it’ll you guessed it, generate positivity. Neutral thoughts are actually relatively rare or more rare, then positive or negative most of them have a charge either way. And we’re going to talk about how neutrality can be a powerful tool hear in a second, but the same holds true neutral thoughts neutralize. Okay, so if you’re someone whose inner communication mainly circles around things that we consider to be and I hope not related to work, guess what? It’s still gonna have an impact. It’s still going to show up. I’ve talked about this in previous episodes and I’m going to repeat it here we are humans. We are humans. Okay. Full beautiful, awesome, messy humans. There are no fractions when it comes to humanity, we bring our whole selves wherever we go yes, we learn how to shine a light or bring forward different aspects of who we are in different settings you know, there’s there’s growth and that that has to happen. I’m not showing up as a professor at book club you know, or you know, bike club or whatever it may be, that’d be weird. I’m still my whole self, you’re still your wholesale so it’s an erroneous belief it’s a comfortable with you actually in some ways that like you could have all this negative self talk it will never show up in any way shape or form. So if in your thoughts you are spending a lot of time, if they’re like hammering away about how you really need to lose weight or workout more or eat only super healthy food but you ate a nutty buddy, a delicious ice cream treat and if you’re not familiar with it, do yourself a solid and go familiarize yourself with a nutty buddy, delicious. I mean anything else related to body image that vibe is going to show up it’s going to find its way into your outer communication. Is this apples to apples, this can be like apples to kangaroos, right? You don’t exactly know how it’s gonna show up. And you know when I coach clients, we dig into all this, right? Because it’s so important. We can’t banish thoughts, we don’t want to banish thoughts, you know, thoughts take on physicality thoughts are important, what we do want to do is first become mindful of them so that we can, you know, harness them in service to ourselves and to those in our lives. So they’re gonna make their way into your outer communication, it’s a universal law. And you can use up a lot of energy mitigating the extent to which these negative thoughts show up. I mean, you can do it, I know I have clients who have gotten pretty good at this, but a better investment of your energy rather than being like, I’m going to keep those all inside and I’m only gonna show positive like that. It’s just a lot of effort. Maybe a more fruitful, a better investment of your energies, turning those thoughts around, you end up happier and healthier and so does everyone in your life and world. So there’s a lot of talk these days about boundaries, and that is fan-freaking-tastic. One thing I just want to point out here, again, just noting, almost all of us as we are human, have thoughts. And many of those thoughts are negative, but just like I just have to put my hand on my heart because that makes me sad. It makes me sad for myself, it makes me sad for you and for anyone else who still has this going on. The most important boundary, you have to set time and time again, is with yourself. The most important boundary, if it’s the only boundary you set needs to be between you and thoughts that don’t serve you. I keep saying negative thoughts, but I want to actually rephrase that. Right thoughts that don’t serve you need a bright line for yourself between you have those thoughts? Okay, so how does one turn these well worn thought patterns that are not serving you into ones that are serving you? For shorthand, just because I already know I’m going to do it, I’ll end up saying negative and positive. But hopefully you’ll hear through that too. Like lots of serve you right? You want everything in your life to serve you. One word, one sentence, one minute, one hour, one day at a time is how you are going to repattern your patterns, right? How you’re going to transition and move out of those, they’re gonna be deep grooves, right? I mean, if you’ve been repeating 90% of your thoughts day over day, every day, and you’re like, oh, I don’t know, 50 just to just a random example. Those grooves are deep, right. And I’m here to say this takes time, right. And I’m also here to say it’s totally doable. So I write in my ebook, which is free, Recharge, the link to that will be in the show notes, you just go to https://claxon-communication.com/recharge/ and get your copy. If you haven’t read it yet, I go over this in more detail. Also, if you prefer to listen to it, I did a three part series about recharge. So if you just head on back to those episodes, I go into all of this in more detail. But the fundamentals are the same, right? And it starts with the sounds so bland yet it’s so important: Noticing your thoughts. It all starts with awareness. It starts with noticing. So next time you find yourself saying anything negative, just notice. That’s it. You might have a propensity to judge that’s normal, you’re human. Allow yourself to really hear your inner communication. If you’re journaler, you might write down the thoughts, this is tough work, I would like have some hankies handy if you’re gonna do it, but there was so much power in and there’s a ton of research to backup, taking the words out, the silent words, they’re still gonna stay silent, unless you tell them to someone. But you’re gonna put them on the page. There’s so much healing in that, yes, you do that. No judgement, just observation. Remember, for reasons that are unique to you, yet universal to all these thoughts have served you somehow they have protected you they have kept you safe. And so your subconscious is very invested in these thoughts because they’re “keeping you safe”, or whatever the story is, right? They offering you a benefit of some sort. On the safety piece, psychological safety is so important, right? I mean, we’re trying to create cultures where people feel included and inspired in the workplace psychological safety is I mean, that just has to be in place. But the question, you know, kind of an interesting question to play with for yourself is, who are they keeping safe? The you of today or a previous version of you, a you that was you long ago. Most of us have ages that we repressed to in different situations. So for me, my ages are 7, 19, 25, 32, and 42. If I’m having a moment of feeling like frumpy or lumpy bumpy or whatever in my body I’m instantly like it is in a flash. Although now fleetingly because I’ve done the work, like I said to like change my need to become aware and changes this pattern. But when I’m feeling that way, there’s going to be a moment where I’m seven. Why? Because of the first time someone, a boy, on the playground in Vancouver, Canada, overtly teased me about being chubby. Yeah, it didn’t feel good. I forgive that boy, he was doing what he needed to do, right. But his words set into motion a narrative that stuck with me for a long, long, long, long time. And it didn’t serve me. It protected me somehow. And you know, happy to chat about that. But it protected me somehow those thoughts no longer serve me. They’re not they’re not doing me any good. So I released them forgiven that boy, I release them. Do they wiggle their way in some days? Yeah, we all have bad days, right? Sure. I’m human. But most of the time I can and remember I said it was going to get back to neutralizing. I can neutralize them. At a minimum, I can neutralize them on a good day, I can, you know, harness my inner Kristin Neff, who is sort of though, not sort of, a leading expert, if not the world’s leading expert of self compassion. And I could turn around and really show myself self compassion and turn it into like positivity. But neutralizing is kind of your first line of defense, right? We have long worn grooves of negativity, it’s tough for our minds to flip the switch to positivity. It’s actually almost impossible neurologically for our brains just to go like negative, negative positive. Now, I mean, there’s a lot out there about replacing negative thoughts with positive so just I would introduce this idea that there needs to be a bridge. Consciously, we can go from negative to positive, logically, consciously, we can but our subconscious is like no slow your roll. Right? That No, I’m comfy. Even though it’s negative, I’m comfy here. So they stay embedded. Okay. So the first step to positivity is often neutrality. So let’s play this out. Let’s just say like, hypothetically, because it applies to almost all humans, I am totally the anomaly in this regard. But let’s just say you’re afraid of public speaking. As you know, if you’ve been listening to this podcast for any amount of time, I love public speaking. I just, you know, I grew up doing drama. I love public speaking, I have like zero fear of it. But that’s really weird. So let’s say that you’re gonna, you know, you’re afraid of public speaking and you’re going to be hard pressed to go from like, holy freak out I have to talk in front of a bunch of people, oh, my God to I’m a rock star speaker, oh, yes, I am. Like, that’s just probably not going to happen. That’s too much for your brain. And again, your subconscious is gonna flip out and then you’re going to be right back to freak out. You need a bridge. That bridge may sound like neutrality. It may sound like, of course, I’m afraid to talk in front of these people. Most of humanity has the same fear as I do, this reaction is human. I am a human, not good or bad, just human. It might sound something like that. If you say this with your hand on your heart, it’s gonna call on your nervous system. It’s gonna, like reinforce that right? And then you just repeat I am human. You’re probably still going to feel jitters and again just be like, I don’t even know. I haven’t seen it happen that many times when somebody goes from freakout to like, no, I’m good. I’m good. I’m totally fine. But here’s the trick, right? If you’re still feeling the jitters, which you may, when you start your talk, say that out loud. Public speaking is fear, second only to death for crying out loud. You are truly not alone. And I make a suggestion to many of my coaching clients because I work on public speaking or you know, delivery with many of them, because it’s something that leaders are expected to do. I say, most of the time, when I make this suggestion, they’re like, Mmm, hmm, I don’t want to do that. Right. There’s resistance, because it feels like admitting to failure. And also, it’s super vulnerable. But guess what, it works. It works like a charm every time it creates connection, like actually just take a second and imagine that you’re in the audience and someone on stage comes on and they’re like, Hey, I’m gonna talk to you about insert awesome topic, right? But I have to tell you, I’m nervous right now. I’m nervous because I love this topic. I’m so passionate about it. And I don’t like talking in front of groups, right? So if I flub up or whatever, you know, hear me out. I imagine if you’re on the receiving end of that, like I have witnessed this many many many times and it creates this connection, whoever your audience may be because again, being afraid of public speaking is a universal for the most part. And if you do that enough times you’ll gain confidence in your speaking it helps, of course, to be working with someone so you’re improving your skills along the way, that’s the combo that we’re going right with skill building and competence building. And then as you feel ready, test out a positive thought okay, right. So we bought from negative freak out to neutral I am human to I’ve done ten talks, and they actually went pretty darn well. I think I’ve got this. You’re not busting out the pom poms, even that that might be too fast of a trajectory, you know, you, you know you, you will know what pacing you need and also get support, right. These are these are big transitions, so get support. So there’s that. Another tip is something I got it ,again, just in the neutralizing thoughts. And I got this from the amazing Hades Torino and her awesome book Body Talk. And it’s one word and it is life changing. I’m telling you the word is Nope. N-O-P-E, nope. Once you’ve identified a negative thought, right, especially when it pops up all the time, so you’re like, Oh, you’re gonna come back. I know you. You’re going to try to make an appearance. Okay, as soon as you notice it, so you’ve noticed it before, no judgement, you just like wow that thought comes up a lot. The next time it comes up, again, you’re just noticing and you’re not judging. You’re not shaming yourself for the thought. You’re just gonna say it out loud, by the way sometimes that could be awkward, you’re just going to say nope. Nope, I’m not available for that thought. No, thank you, and get back to whatever you were doing. Okay, you don’t even need to replace it in that moment. You don’t need to replace it. You’re just saying I’m not available for that. Nope. I mean, it’s kind of goofy, right? So like, nope, sometimes the timing, you know, isn’t always right for like, How can I replace it? You know, note it and try to come up with like something else to say. But for some indefinite period of time, you can just get out of the habit of having the thoughts. Just get out of the habit of having a thought, noping negativity frees up so much energy for all the other things that you want to do in your life. Right? Noping negativity is where it’s at. Alright, so to recap, your inner communication has ripple effects. It makes it’s way to your outer communication. And listen, depending on the role, you hold in an organization, like if you’re in a leadership role, those silent thoughts make their way all the way into your external communication and messaging, yeah, they sure do. I mean, I’ve seen this so so many times in my 20ish years of working with purpose centered clients, like the number of meetings, or retreats or talks or whatever you’re giving, where we’re talking about external communication and I’ve had to steer the conversation because I am noticing body language, I’m hearing something come out. And it’s actually usually energetic. Right? So it might go consciously unnoticed, but because I learned to tune into this, right, I can now, you know, have this moment where I’m like, Ooh, what, we’re not gonna get that mission statement, you know, to where it needs to be organizationally until we’ve cleaned up this inner communication that’s happening for some folks, right? So for clients like, are they always like, Hey, open arms, hearts and minds, I love this idea. Let’s clean up or inner communication. Let’s clean up our self talk. No, if you can imagine this is sometimes not met with wild enthusiasm. But for clients who are open to taking the time to explore how their inner communication just may be showing up in their outer communication, external communication, this openness and willingness pays huge dividends, just huge dividends, okay, I’m gonna put a whole bunch of links in the show notes. For some of you, you may be like, long past this, yay. For others, you may be like, this is the first time you’ve heard some of these ideas, this idea that your thoughts, have physicality, your thoughts create feelings, right? You know, and then that leads into action. If that’s new, I just want to open the door to this to the sort of piece of communication that I’m hoping we’ll hear and talk more about when it comes to leadership. Because it’s powerful, right? It’s powerful. So I’m going to put a whole bunch of links in the show notes. So go look there, I was listening to a fabulously geeky, yet very accessible podcast episode about inner critic, as that’s very related. So I’m gonna pop that in there, you know, I’m not gonna say this work is like, easy or fun, necessarily, and just want to really say I still want to invite you into this work, because the rewards on the other side, like living from a place of mainly positive self talk and having agency over your inner communication is this life changing. That’s being the master of you. That’s being the master of you in so many ways. If you liked this episode and if you think others would benefit I would so appreciate you sharing that if you haven’t clicked the stars to rate the podcast, I again with deep gratitude in advanced love it if you would do that, I want as many people as possible, as many leaders as possible, but really just people as possible to really have the benefits of being the boss of their inner communication and all the benefits that that brings. So thank you. Thank you. Thank you for listening amazing human, and I will catch you on the next episode.