Self-talk is a valuable source for your coaching business. You’ll get authentic insights and better understanding of your clients’ state of mind. In addition or alternatively to common questioning techniques you can facilitate and support clients’ own thought processes in order to identify solutions and actions. More awareness of their thoughts and self-talk gives every client a better understanding of themself. You encourage a commitment to action and development of lasting personal growth and change.
Are you paying attention to your thoughts or living mostly on autopilot? If you’re thinking about of your last thoughts something like „I can’t do anything right and no one likes me!“ might come up to your mind. That’s because 80% of our thoughts are limiting or negative! But luckily we are able to identify these subconscious patterns and deliberately change them. We can even use this technique to help our coaching clients accomplish extraordinary results. This article guides you through the process of how to control our thoughts and mind in three easy steps.
What is self-talk and why is it important? (A short definition)
Self-talk is that endless inner dialogue that is constantly going on in our heads. It turns our thoughts, feelings, beliefs, and experiences into an internal chatter. It’s also a reflection of our current mindset which determines our life. Our self-talk can be inspiring and empowering or negative and self-sabotaging like the first statement at the beginning of this text.
It’s a combination of our conscious thoughts and our unconscious beliefs and biases. Self-talk is an important way for our brain to process our daily experience and new information and also a valuable source for coaching.
We can help our coaching clients to become aware and control their thoughts and mindset, challenge their negative thoughts and to deliberately take advantage of their self-talk. It makes achieving their goals much easier and comes with a lot of benefits for our coaching:
- Self-talk is a valuable source of insights and better understanding for ourselves
- Spending time understanding the context of our self-talk will help our clients to find much more effective and lasting solutions
- Controlling and reflecting their thoughts will help our clients to uncover competing values, circumstances and motivations
- They learn to understand their internal (what do I really want?) and external context (what is going on around me?)
- It helps not only to decide what’s next but also take advantage of the new insights and perspectives about other emerging challenges.
- Using the self-talk helps to keep the reflective process going after the coaching session. The client constantly works on understanding him-/herself better
Step 1 – Become aware of your thoughts, self-talk and mindset
Stop the autopilot! The first of the three steps is becoming aware of the current self-talk, thoughts, and mindset:
There are several ways to encourage your coaching clients to pay attention to their thoughts and self-talk. It takes some practice but soon your clients will see themselves with other eyes once they become more aware and conscious about their thoughts. This leads to a better self-understanding, their confidence for future decisions will grow, they will be empowered to take action and achieve more.
The first and easiest exercise is to encourage your clients to write down what they’re saying to themselves throughout the day. Writing down their self-talk, negative and positive is the first step. Positive self-talk can help them take personal responsibility for your success. (“I’m calm and determined”). Negative self-talk often shows up as chronic worry (“I’ll never get this right”), anger, irritation, fault-finding, and blame. Provide your clients a thought monitoring form where they put their focus on observing their thoughts without judging or fixing them. This step is not about changing self-talk or overcoming negative self-talk yet.
Let them note various thoughts and the corresponding feelings that occur throughout their day. This observation should be done for at least one week. (Check out this thought monitoring form)
Provide your clients with professional coaching software like CleverMemo where they can share their observations and thoughts in their coaching stream with you. All the information is gathered and organized in one secure space. Becoming conscious and aware of what we’re saying to ourselves is the first step for change and the basis for our second step on the way to control our thoughts and mind.
Step 2 – Noticing patterns, self-sabotaging, limiting beliefs and the inner critic
Encourage your clients to take some time to reread the notes they took in step 1. With a little bit of practice, they (and also you) will see patterns in their thoughts and self-talk. This step is all about exploring dominant beliefs, identifying the inner critic and self-sabotaging behavior regarding their goals, challenges and desired outcomes. Are the thoughts objectively true or just the perceived reality of the client? They will also realize that their thoughts are often irrational and unhelpful.
Some possible discoveries can be motivating events and situations, but also empowering people. There’s also the possibility that they will discover hidden talents and qualities that the client hasn’t been aware of yet.
Self-sabotaging thoughts: How to stop self-sabotage
Behavior is said to be self-sabotaging when it creates problems and interferes with our goals. It means you take actions against yourself and is often unconscious. You stop yourself from achieving the goals you want, drive away the relationships you want, and convince yourself you don’t want what you actually do want. Some real-life examples are procrastination, self-criticism, destructive habits or behaviors, and perfectionism. Self-sabotage could be summed up as “working against yourself”. (This coaching tool will help your clients to explore and uncover self-sabotaging behavior and finding ways how to stop it)
Inner critic: Silencing your inner critic
Negative thoughts and the inner critic commonly occur when we face difficult situations and our negative core beliefs have been activated. You’ll tend to put negative labels on yourself like “I’m an idiot”, “I’ll never learn it”, “Every time it’s the same story”. When we are so critical to ourselves it often leads to unhelpful behavior. We’ll tend to overcompensate or neglect things and miss opportunities to find a solution. The inner critic and negative thoughts contribute to us feeling bad, depressed, helpless and powerless. You can help clients to identify, challenge and silence their inner critic. Encourage them to find situations in which they criticize themselves. How do they felt about it? Is there’s any “real“ reason for this critic and how to act differently in the future? (Here’s an exercise to challenge and silence the inner critic)
Negative thoughts and limiting beliefs – How to stop them?
As we’ve learned at the beginning 80% of our thoughts and self-talk are negative so there’s a good chance that your clients will uncover some patterns and negative beliefs that interfere with their coaching goals. Now it’s time to find out if these thoughts are objectively true or just their perceived reality. Our negative beliefs reflect the negative and generalized judgments we have made about ourselves, based on some negative experiences we might have had during our earlier years. Changing our existing (negative) beliefs is not easy and will take time and practice.
Some questions to uncover thought patterns and beliefs are:
- Which situations or experiences always lead to the same negative thoughts?
- Is there some statement, thought or belief that comes up on a regular basis?
- Are conversations with certain people always leading to negative thoughts or emotions?
- Is there a certain thought or belief that comes up in a lot of different situations?
Encourage your clients to examine and note patterns, thoughts, limiting beliefs and self-sabotaging behavior that are in correlation with their coaching goal by rereading their records of step 1.
Step 3 – Take action: Control your thoughts, master your mind and self-talk!
The third and last step is all about challenging, overcoming and replacing the negative self-talk with a positive one that serves our client’s goal better.
Our mindset is based on all the experiences we have had during our earlier years.
Changing our existing (negative) beliefs, controlling our thoughts and mastering our mind is not easy and will take time and practice. Encourage your clients to train their awareness and practice positive self-talk in everyday life and they will find several pieces of evidence that support their new belief. It’s an ongoing process and not a one-time event.
Remember, this negative or limiting belief was established over years so it will take some time to replace it and embrace the new belief. By the time their conviction in their new belief will become stronger and stronger and positive, empowering thoughts become „automatic“.
Some questions to challenge these (negative) thought patterns and to change self-talk are:
- Am I overgeneralizing or overreacting in this case?
- Are there any other ways to think about this?
- Am I exaggerating?
- How would a neutral person look at this situation/thought?
(Get the full self-talk worksheet “Catch your (negative) thoughts and dispute them“)
Now that your clients are aware of their thoughts and beliefs they are able to learn a new approach to self-talk. One technique is to take a look at their list of negative thought patterns and rephrase them in a more positive way. Instead of “I’m an idiot! I’ll never get it right“ they could say: “I made a mistake, but I’ll learn from it and will do it better next time“.
Encourage your clients to choose five of their uncovered negative thoughts or beliefs and rephrase them (in written form!) to encouraging and positive statements. They can also use their daily life as an experiment. Whenever a negative thought comes up, they should rephrase it more positive in their head.
Another great technique to control our thoughts and self-talk is positive affirmations. But they are only effective if they are realistic and your clients really believe them. Your clients have to find statements they truly believe and that they are excited about. One way is to combine all the qualities, accomplishments and talents with their goals and desires.
Bonus tip for your coaching:
As we know it takes time to internalize this new way of thinking and mindset. Encourage your clients to share their thoughts (e.g. with CleverMemo) with you even when the coaching is finished.
It’s the most effective way to prevent setbacks to old patterns and even if it happens you’re there to support them to get back on track.
Conclusion: Self-talk is a valuable source for your coaching business.
In addition or alternatively to common questioning techniques you can facilitate and support clients’ own thought processes in order to identify solutions and actions. Controlling their thoughts and self-talk gives them a better understanding of themselves. You encourage a commitment to action and development of lasting personal growth and change.
It is important to realize that our self-talk (thoughts, beliefs, mindset) triggers our feelings and drives our behavior. Mastering and controlling our self-talk leads to conscious choices and deliberate actions.
This toolkit is all you need to help your clients control their thoughts and self-talk. It contains 7 self talk worksheets and tools and covers each of the three necessary steps mentioned in this article. Get it here —>