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Talk Yourself Out of It

If negative self-talk came with an off switch, you could just flip it. But it doesn't. It takes a plan and some work to tone it down. Here are four ways to make it happen:

  • Distance yourself. You can't banish negative self-talk forever, but you can take a step back from it. When you notice negative self-talk occurring, Beneduce says address it like you would an opinionated third party. You might say, "Thanks for sharing," or "It's interesting you feel that way" and move on.
  • Distract yourself. "Over-thinking involves focusing on a train of thought that goes around and around," Lyubomirsky says. "You can stop that train of thought by focusing on something else." Try playing basketball, doing a crossword puzzle, or any other activity that fully engages your mind.
  • Call them on it. Give your negative thoughts the third-degree and they could crumble. You might ask yourself, "Is that really true?" or "Is there another way to look at this situation?" You may also look for benefits. If you missed that job promotion, are there any lessons for the future you can take from the situation? Or could another opportunity come out of it?
  • Save them for later. Set aside a time of day for negative self-talk. If you hear yourself doubting, blaming, or comparing yourself to others at another time of day, tell yourself you will come back to the conversation later. When the appointed time arrives, your negative thoughts may have lost most of their oomph.

Make It Positive

Beneduce admits he's not immune to negative self-talk. When he works with large groups, he knows everyone will be watching him. If he's on, the day will go well, but if he's off, he flops. So going in, he tells himself, "I am confident. I have the skills I need. I am going to trust myself." Sometimes he'll write three words on a piece of paper to reinforce it. Throughout the day, he glances at them: "Fun. Smart. Effective." And that is what he projects.