This was a thought I had recently, looking at someone’s dog. Thankfully, that highly critical thought did not make its way out of my mouth. You’ve probably had some similarly critical thoughts at work or at home.
Are you stupid? What were you thinking? You’re not going to wear that are you? Were you not listening to what I just said? This doesn’t even make any sense! Can’t you just do your job?
Of course, we think positive thoughts about people and situations, too, but we’re more inclined to speak those out loud. Not so much for the disparaging, critical ones.
And what about how we speak to ourselves? Have you ever had a critical thought about yourself that went sweeping through your mind so that it was quickly absorbed by your body as a reality? Why would we speak to ourselves in a way that we would not to others? Don’t we want to inspire others toward positive action? Doesn’t it make sense that we would also want to inspire ourselves?
Whether it’s about ourselves, someone else, or their dog, critical thoughts aren’t helpful. And positive thoughts that go unsaid are simply wasted.
A great leader communicates with two objectives: Clarity and Inspiration. Any good parent, coach, manager, or friend wants to make their expectations, instructions, or requests clear. They also hope they will inspire action in those they are leading. Disparaging, highly-critical statements rarely create clarity or inspire anyone, including us.
Here are two things we can do to communicate with more clarity and inspiration. Make positive thoughts public and shift critical thoughts into neutral. It’s more helpful to a stranger, child, friend, or colleague to hear the facts about an unmet expectation or poor result than to hear nothing, or to hear a negative, critical comment. “I need you to focus more on greeting our customers” is far more productive (and neutral) than “Why can’t you just do your job?”
When we turn the mirror to ourselves and our internal comments about our appearance, performance, or potential, “You have the ability to improve this any time you want to by changing your actions and your habits” is more productive (and neutral) than “How did you let yourself get so fat once again?” (Don’t ask me how I know.)
Make all your positive thoughts about someone (even yourself) public and personal. And try shifting your critical, disparaging comments into neutral where they become more factual and inspirational.
Becoming and embodying the leader you aspire to be means communicating with more clarity and inspiration… even if you do think that’s one ugly dog.
“Talk to yourself like you would to someone you love.”
~ Karolina Kurkova