There’s an old joke: You can talk to yourself all you want. It’s when you start answering yourself that you’re in trouble.
There’s some truth to that. Healthy people talk to themselves all the time. They unconsciously recite their grocery list while shopping, mutter a sarcastic line in response to a ridiculous statement, or even absentmindedly work through the logistics of a story while telling it; “He lived on 3rd street (no, no, it was 2nd Ave.) Any way….”
As long as there is only one voice…and it’s yours, you’re probably okay. On the other hand, a major sign of stress is when you repeatedly have “practice” arguments with an individual who is NOT present at the time. For example, fighting with an imaginary boss during the commute to or from work is a sure sign your job, or at least your relationship with the individual, is on the rocks.
How can you fix this?
- Map the Pattern: The first step is to notice that you are engaging in this unhealthy behavior. Many people don’t even realize the degree to which a negative work environment affects their lives. Even a one time occurrence is a cause for evaluation, but if you find this is a pattern, you should examine the root cause and locate the source of the issue.
- Check the Heat: Once you’ve uncovered the pattern, take stock of the intensity. Introverts will often practice presentations or even conversations beforehand to up their confidence. This is natural. An unhealthy dynamic involves a feeling of self-defense or victimization whereby you rehearse an interaction in hopes of fending off an attack.
- Watch the Clock: You’re likely in trouble if you are having frequent, high-intensity rehearsals of conversations especially if they never materialize. Another warning sign is how much residual energy you spend on the subject. Many people will practice a conversation on the way home and continue thinking about the issue all weekend, disrupting every other aspect of their lives. In effect you are allowing the other person rent-free space in your brain.
- Switch Roles: Often simply doing this research is enough to snap people out of the unhealthy habit. Another tip is to try and imagine the other person engaging in the behavior you are exhibiting. Many times people are unable to picture their boss fretting over a pending discussion with them, sacrificing time with family, or kicking the proverbial dog out of frustration. Often the images are laughable.
Once you view the interaction played out by neutral characters you can begin to see the gap between the role you’re playing and the character you should be. This insight will give you the courage to confront the issue and take control of your work / life relationships.
Need a career coach? Contact me via www.PlotlineLeadership.com.
Be sure to check out my latest book The Introvert’s Guide to Job Hunting and follow me on Twitter at @timtoterhi