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.
We 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 logicallyBecause 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. Top Next Issue
The 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 welcomeWould you like to see your comments posted here? rbrenaRmIVkiKqryIVvgkner@ChacSLbdhWbQCVnTYZNOoCanyon.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.
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.
More articles on Personal, Team, and Organizational Effectiveness:
- A Message Is Only a Message
- When we receive messages of disapproval, we sometimes feel bad. And when we do, it can help to remember
that we have the freedom to decide whether or not to accept the messages we receive.
- We Are All People
- When a team works to solve a problem, it is the people of that team who do the work. Remembering that
we're all people — and all different people — is an important key to success.
- When Stress Strikes
- Most of what we know about person-to-person communication applies when levels of stress are low. But
when stress is high, as it is in emergencies, we're more likely to make mistakes. Knowing those mistakes
in advance can be helpful in avoiding them.
- This Is the Only Job
- You have a job. Even though you liked it once, those days are long past, and a return is improbable.
If you could, you'd hop to another job immediately, but economic conditions in your field make that
unlikely. How can you deal with this misery?
- Why Do Business Fads Form?
- The rise of a business fad is due to the actions of both its advocates and adopters. Understanding the
interplay between them is essential for successful resistance.
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming October 17: Overt Belligerence in Meetings
- Some meetings lose their way in vain attempts to mollify a belligerent participant who simply will not be mollified. Here's one scenario that fits this pattern. Available here and by RSS on October 17.
- And on October 24: Conversation Irritants: I
- Conversations at work can be frustrating even when everyone tries to be polite, clear, and unambiguous. But some people actually try to be nasty, unclear, and ambiguous. Here's Part I of a small collection of their techniques. Available here and by RSS on October 24.
I offer email and telephone coaching at both corporate and individual rates. Contact Rick for details at rbrenlVJhSBhPdmUqbENJner@ChacZkdssXrIJbEFNwtuoCanyon.com or (650) 787-6475, or toll-free in the continental US at (866) 378-5470.
Get the ebook!
Past issues of Point Lookout are available in six ebooks:
- Get 2001-2 in Geese Don't Land on Twigs (PDF, USD 11.95)
- Get 2003-4 in Why Dogs Wag (PDF, USD 11.95)
- Get 2005-6 in Loopy Things We Do (PDF, USD 11.95)
- Get 2007-8 in Things We Believe That Maybe Aren't So True (PDF, USD 11.95)
- Get 2009-10 in The Questions Not Asked (PDF, USD 11.95)
- Get all of the first twelve years (2001-2012) in The Collected Issues of Point Lookout (PDF, USD 28.99)
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
- The Power Affect: How We Express Our Personal Power
- Many people who possess real organizational power have a characteristic demeanor. It's the way they project their presence. I call this the power affect. Some people — call them power pretenders — adopt the power affect well before they attain significant organizational power. Unfortunately for their colleagues, and for their organizations, power pretenders can attain organizational power out of proportion to their merit or abilities. Understanding the power affect is therefore important for anyone who aims to attain power, or anyone who works with power pretenders. Read more about this program.