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: 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? rbrenwaEiHXiXfbesCRMMner@ChacdxBFCRJSoprFFkRAoCanyon.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:

A MetronomeSelling Uphill: The Pitch
Whether you're a CEO or a project champion, you occasionally have to persuade decision-makers who have some kind of power over you. What do they look for? What are the key elements of an effective pitch? What does it take to Persuade Power?
A sundialRecovering Time: II
Where do the days go? How can it be that we spend eight, ten, or twelve hours at work each day and get so little done? To find more time, focus on strategy.
An appealing plate of pasta (not what I ate that evening)If Only I Had Known: I
Have you ever regretted saying something that you wouldn't have said if only you had known just one more little fact? Yeah, me too. We all have. Here are some tips for dealing with this sticky situation.
Bill Moyers — host of the PBS program Bill Moyers JournalAsking Clarifying Questions
In a job interview, the interviewer asks you a question. You're unsure how to answer. You can blunder ahead, or you can ask a clarifying question. What is a clarifying question, and when is it helpful to ask one?
Senator Susan Collins of MaineDiscussion Distractions: I
Meetings could be far more productive, if only we could learn to recognize and prevent the distractions that lead us off topic and into the woods. Here is Part I of a small catalog of distractions frequently seen in meetings.

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

Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout

British mathematician Christopher Zeeman in 2009Coming October 18: Missing the Obvious: II
With hindsight, we sometimes recognize that we could have predicted the very thing that just now surprised us. Somehow, we missed the obvious. Why does this happen? Available here and by RSS on October 18.
Five almondsAnd on October 25: Workplace Memes
Some patterns of workplace society reduce organizational effectiveness in ways that often escape our notice. Here are five examples. Available here and by RSS on October 25.

Coaching services

I offer email and telephone coaching at both corporate and individual rates. Contact Rick for details at rbrenEHxjiYmYskRwtVQUner@ChacWLbvPsQXqMDXZTxooCanyon.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

Ten Project Management Fallacies: The Power of Avoiding Hazards
Most Ten Project Management Fallaciesof what we know about managing projects is useful and effective, but some of what we know "just ain't so." Identifying the fallacies of project management reduces risk and enhances your ability to complete projects successfully. Even more important, avoiding these traps can demonstrate the value and power of the project management profession in general, and your personal capabilities in particular. In this program we describe ten of these beliefs. There are almost certainly many more, but these ten are a good start. We'll explore the situations where these fallacies are most likely to expose projects to risk, and suggest techniques for avoiding them. Read more about this program. Here's a date for this program:

The Power Affect: How We Express Our Personal Power
Many The Power Affect: How We Express Personal Powerpeople 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.

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.
Workplace Politics Awareness Month KitIn October, increase awareness of workplace politics, and learn how to convert destructive politics into creative politics. Order the Workplace Politics Awareness Month Kit during October at the special price of USD 29.95 and save USD 10.00! Includes a copy of my tips book 303 Secrets of Workplace Politics which is a value!! ! Check it out!
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.