Self-Talk: A Critical Leadership Skill

If you have heard me speak, you have heard me say that there are only four reasons for any relationship drama. The first is the failure to speak your truth. Speaking your truth is not about using honesty as an excuse to spew anger, saying what you should have said three years ago. Nor is  speaking your truth about being right and making someone else wrong. Speaking your truth is about representing yourself and having the courage to speak authentically about your perceptions, opinions and experiences from the intention of increasing understanding, promoting collaboration or clarifying your intention.

Speaking your truth starts with awareness. What is your intention? What kind of self-talk do you participate in? What are your triggers?  If you can’t answer these questions, your communication will be reactive and manipulative.

What’s Your Intention?
If you don’t know your intention before an interaction you will know it afterwards, (to paraphrase author Gary Zukav.) Sometimes we secretly intend to people-please. At other times we secretly intend to avoid an argument. Becoming aware of your conflicting intentions helps you to align with the highest intention.

What is Your Self-Talk?
If you constantly criticize and judge yourself, you aren’t going to be giving anyone else much more slack. If you aren’t able to manage your self-talk, your self-talk will leak out in your communication. Instead of speaking your truth, you will end up blaming someone else for your experience, using manipulation to get your point across, or justifying your bad behaviors.

What are your Triggers?
When do you react instead of respond? Is it after a long draining day? When you are hungry? When you need to focus but someone interrupts? I recommend  Triggers by Marshall Goldsmith to increase your awareness about the environmental impact on becoming the person you want to be. You can either be a slave to your emotions or the master of your emotions. What you experience today may not be the truth. Instead, your immediate experience may be the result of being tired and hungry while managing a negative narrative.

The ability to manage your self-talk is a critical skill that empowers you to become the master of your emotions instead of the slave to them. Speaking your truth with others requires other-awareness, personal responsibility, and strategic versus short term thinking as well as the critical skills to use language to promote collaboration and course-correction.

It’s more strategic to address a problem with a co-worker, spouse, or friend than it is to deny or avoid which always has a bad ending in the long run. Speaking  your truth requires self-awareness, as well as the ability to distinguish between facts and feelings. Knowing your feelings does not change the facts, but knowing the facts can change your feelings.

If you could gain the critical skill of managing your self-talk and speaking truth to yourself first, all other relationship issues would melt away.


Marlene-Blk4Marlene Chism is an executive educator, consultant, and author of Stop Workplace Drama, (Wiley 2011) and No-Drama Leadership (Bibliomotion 2015). She works with executives, and high-performing leaders who want to transform culture in the workplace. To explore opportunities please email