Point Lookout: a free weekly publication of Chaco Canyon Consulting
Volume 6, Issue 21;   May 24, 2006: Inner Babble

Inner Babble

by

It goes by various names — self-talk, inner dialog, or internal conversation. Because it is so often disorganized and illogical, I like to call it inner babble. But whatever you call it, it's often misleading, distracting, and unhelpful. How can you recognize inner babble?

Inner babble is that stream of speeches, rehearsals, nagging, put-downs, gloating, and other disturbing messages that pass through our brains almost continuously. It isn't the only inner stream of course; others are more organized, more creative, and might even be the source of inspiration now and then.

An anxious dogWe each have our own favored patterns of inner babble, and we favor some over others in certain situations. Here are some examples.

  • I better not do that. People might think less of me.
  • I better do that. If I don't, people might think less of me.
  • I better stop doing this. It's too much fun.
  • I like this, but I don't deserve it.
  • I don't have to do this distasteful task right now. I'll do it later.
  • If I do this, the world should reward me.
  • I don't have to do this, because the world didn't reward me last time.
  • People should behave according to my rules.
  • Some parts of my body work, but they need to be larger (smaller).
  • Some parts of my body work, but they're in the wrong place.
  • I can conceal my physical defects with X.
  • I'm an inferior being. Only X can help me.
  • X is a shortcut to achieving my dreams.
  • I can get X only by giving money to somebody else.

If you're hearing
that success or failure
will follow inevitably,
you probably aren't
thinking logically
Because inner babble can be misleading, tiring, and demoralizing, controlling it helps focus your energy on more constructive pursuits. When you suddenly suspect that your thoughts might be inner babble, check for these identifying characteristics:

Absolute language
Concepts appear in stark terms: "my body is inferior;" "I have to do this;" "I must never do that." Everything is either good or bad.
Very little in life is all good, all bad, or always so.
Promises of certain success or predictions of inevitable doom
If you're hearing that success or failure will follow inevitably, you probably aren't thinking logically.
Life just isn't that predictable.
Unverifiable assertions
You find yourself hearing things that might be true, but can't be checked. Just how exactly will X help you achieve your dreams?
Try asking "How?" Often the answer is unavailable.
Money-based "solutions"
Purchased "solutions" rarely last, even if they're real. And there's a good chance that the likely vendor is the originator of the babble message.
Doing what's really needed is much more difficult than spending money, but it has two distinct advantages — it's usually cheaper, and it works.

When we're trying to change, we sometimes see our current behavior as "wrong" or defective, and we can become discouraged if the change is difficult. Beware — changing inner babble can be especially tricky if you get to babbling about your inner babble. Go to top Top  Next issue: If Only I Had Known: Part I  Next Issue

Rick BrennerThe article you've been reading is an archived issue of Point Lookout, my weekly newsletter. I've been publishing it since January, 2001, free to all subscribers, over the Web, and via RSS. You can help keep it free by donating either as an individual or as an organization. You'll receive in return my sincere thanks — and the comfort of knowing that you've helped to propagate insights and perspectives that can help make our workplaces a little more human-friendly. More

Your comments are welcome

Would you like to see your comments posted here? rbrenoeWrDDxzphRBWcizner@ChacgcqPLWSHdvdyBEAVoCanyon.comSend me your comments by email, or by Web form.

About Point Lookout

Thank you for reading this article. I hope you enjoyed it and found it useful, and that you'll consider recommending it to a friend.

Point Lookout is a free weekly email newsletter. Browse the archive of past issues. Subscribe for free.

Support Point Lookout by joining the Friends of Point Lookout, as an individual or as an organization.

Do you face a complex interpersonal situation? Send it in, anonymously if you like, and I'll give you my two cents.

Related articles

More articles on Personal, Team, and Organizational Effectiveness:

Bowling pins for ten-pin bowlingPygmalion Side Effects: Bowling a Strike
Elise slowly walked back to her office, beaten. Her supervisor, Alton, had just given Elise her performance review — her third consecutive "meets expectations." No point now to her strategy of giving 120% to turn it all around. She is living a part of the Pygmalion Effect, and she's about to experience the Pygmalion Side Effects.
Ancient stairs at ruins in CambodiaThe True Costs of Indirectness
Indirect communications are veiled, ambiguous, excessively diplomatic, or conveyed to people other than the actual target. We often use indirectness to avoid confrontation or to avoid dealing with conflict. It can be an expensive practice.
U.S. Unemployment Rate in percentFinding Work in Tough Times: Strategy
If you're out of work and discouraged — or getting there — you're in great company. Better than ever before. Getting back to work starts with getting to work on finding work. Here's a collection of strategies for the job of finding work.
Soldiers of IX Engineering Command, U.S. Army Air Force, putting down a Pierced Steel Planking (PSP) Runway at an Advanced Landing Ground under construction somewhere in France following the Normandy Landings of World War IIManagement Debt: Part I
Management debt, like technical debt, arises when we choose paths — usually the lowest-cost paths — that lead to recurring costs that are typically higher than alternatives. Why do we take on management debt? How can we pay it down?
An adult male mountain lion captured by biologistsThe Myth of Difficult People
Many books and Web sites offer advice for dealing with difficult people. There are indeed some difficult people, but are they as numerous as these books and Web sites would have us believe? I think not.

See also Personal, Team, and Organizational Effectiveness and Critical Thinking at Work for more related articles.

Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout

A vizsla in a pose called the play bowComing April 26: Why Dogs Make the Best Teammates
Dogs make great teammates. It's in their constitutions. We can learn a lot from dogs about being good teammates. Available here and by RSS on April 26.
A business meetingAnd on May 3: Start the Meeting with a Check-In
Check-ins give meeting attendees a chance to express satisfaction or surface concerns about how things are going. They're a valuable aid to groups that want to stay on course, or get back on course when needed. Available here and by RSS on May 3.

Coaching services

I offer email and telephone coaching at both corporate and individual rates. Contact Rick for details at rbrenSmwuYyRrXUfVwCAUner@ChacWiBKbpVBVWfPeuREoCanyon.com or (617) 491-6289, or toll-free in the continental US at (866) 378-5470.

Get the ebook!

Past issues of Point Lookout are available in six ebooks:

Reprinting this article

Are you a writer, editor or publisher on deadline? Are you looking for an article that will get people talking and get compliments flying your way? You can have 500 words in your inbox in one hour. License any article from this Web site. More info

Public seminars

Changing How We Change: The Essence of Agility
MasteChanging How We Change: The Essence of Agilityry of the ability to adapt to unpredictable and changing circumstances is one way of understanding the success of Agile methodologies for product development. Applying the principles of Change Mastery, we can provide the analogous benefits in a larger arena. By exploring strategies and tactics for enhancing both the resilience and adaptability of projects and portfolios, we show why agile methodologies are so powerful, and how to extend them beyond product development to efforts of all kinds. Read more about this program. Here's an upcoming date for this program:

Creating High Performance Virtual Teams
Many Creating High Performance Virtual Teamspeople experience virtual teams as awkward, slow, and sometimes frustrating. Even when most team members hail from the same nation or culture, and even when they all speak the same language, geographic dispersion or the presence of employees from multiple enterprises is often enough to exclude all possibility of high performance. The problem is that we lead, manage, and support virtual teams in ways that are too much like the way we lead, manage, and support co-located teams. In this program, Rick Brenner shows you how to change your approach to leading, managing, and supporting virtual teams to achieve high performance using Simons' Four Spans model of high performance. Read more about this program. Here's an upcoming date for this program:

The Race to the South Pole: Ten Lessons for Project Managers
On 14The Race to the Pole: Ten Lessons for Project Managers December 1911, four men led by Roald Amundsen reached the South Pole. Thirty-five days later, Robert F. Scott and four others followed. Amundsen had won the race to the pole. Amundsen's party returned to base on 26 January 1912. Scott's party perished. As historical drama, why this happened is interesting enough, but to organizational leaders, business analysts, project sponsors, and project managers, the story is fascinating. Lessons abound. Read more about this program. Here's an upcoming date for this program:

Follow Rick

Send email or subscribe to one of my newsletters Follow me at LinkedIn Follow me at Twitter, or share a tweet Follow me at Google+ or share a post Subscribe to RSS feeds Subscribe to RSS feeds
The message of Point Lookout is unique. Help get the message out. Please donate to help keep Point Lookout available for free to everyone.
21st Century Business TravelAre your business trips long chains of stressful misadventures? Have you ever wondered if there's a better way to get from here to there relaxed and refreshed? First class travel is one alternative, but you can do almost as well (without the high costs) if you know the tricks of the masters of 21st-century e-enabled business travel…
Go For It: Sometimes It's Easier If You RunBad boss, long commute, troubling ethical questions, hateful colleague? Learn what we can do when we love the work but not the job.
303 Tips for Virtual and Global TeamsLearn how to make your virtual global team sing.
101 Tips for Managing ChangeAre you managing a change effort that faces rampant cynicism, passive non-cooperation, or maybe even outright revolt?
101 Tips for Effective MeetingsLearn how to make meetings more productive — and more rare.
Exchange your "personal trade secrets" — the tips, tricks and techniques that make you an ace — with other aces, anonymously. Visit the Library of Personal Trade Secrets.