Thursday 20 September 2018

Gina London: Don't be held back by the little voice in your head

Gina London
Gina London

Gina London

Let's talk today about what may be holding you back in your communications and your career. One of your biggest obstacles is one from which you cannot escape. That's because you carry it with you every second of every day. In the office. After work. During the weekend. It's your mind. The little voice inside your head constantly talking.

Sometimes, it tells you negative things that simply are not true. Many of our self-doubts are what psychologists call 'cognitive distortion' or, more simply, unhelpful thinking patterns. They've identified more than a dozen, and here are four. Do you recognise yourself?

1 It's all or nothing Have you ever tried something, faltered in even the most minor way, and then given up completely? From dieting to starting your own business, it's the long-term trajectory that matters. Don't throw in the towel too quickly.

2 Emotional reasoning If you once tried public speaking and had a bad experience, you may have been embarrassed. But the following is not correct: "I feel embarrassed, so therefore, I truly must be an idiot or a failure."

Ask for another person's input to help you get needed balance.

3 Filtering When your focus eliminates positive attributes from any given situation and allows only the negative details to fill your memory, that's negative filtering. Is that really what's happened in the meeting? Get a second opinion from someone else who was there.

4 Mind-reading or jumping to conclusions It's hard to have an effective conversation when you assume what the other person is already thinking about the project. Or more likely about you. Ask open-ended questions. Don't presume.

Fortunately, there are solutions to reduce the thought distortions that can undermine you.

Here are my quick tips to try:

1 Push through This requires you to keep at it, even if your negative emotions are telling you to give up, turn off the computer, take a nap or run to the freezer for that container of ice cream. Once you are more aware of your own unhelpful thinking, you can strive to keep going - to make yourself move forward even if it is a smaller step than you might have taken otherwise.

2 Phone a friend People need people. So rather than stew in your own negative juices, call a trusted colleague or mentor to vent to, listen to and to care.

3 Self-affirm You can help retrain your inner-voice to be more positive by declaring positive thoughts at the moment a distortion pops in your head. Try: "Take a deep breath. This will pass." Or - "I've got this."

This week's Champion Communicators

Speaking of celebrating people who 'get this', I would like to take a moment to announce my first two 'Champion Communicators'. They have won my first awards for this just-announced award series. Sorry, there's no new car on its way. Hopefully, encouraging others by sharing stories is reward enough for them. Okay. Drum roll, please.

First is musician Emma Langford. She's a talented singer-songwriter from Limerick I met last year when I emceed BT's gender equality event at Aviva Stadium.

Not only is she a great entertainer, she advocates for female talent in all areas - running supportive music and business events under the banners of 'The Limerick Lady' and 'She Means Business'.

And, like any of us who put ourselves out there in the public eye, she has also struggled with the occasional social media begrudger. Emma took time this past week to let me know my recent column on online nastiness had helped her. "Loved reading your piece. We've all been there with trying not to take it personally! Very well expressed," she tweeted.

My column encouraged Emma, and, in turn, Emma's tweet encouraged me. Do you see how the chain of positivity can work? And, lest I miss an important link in that chain, I must also award Emma's mom. Because, as Emma told me, it was actually her mom who set aside my column especially for Emma to read. So, thank you, Emma's mom!

Secondly, I'm awarding entrepreneur Hannah Wrixon. I met her two years ago in Limerick when I was leading a workshop on press and public relations. She had started a company called Last Minute Minders which provided garda-vetted childcare professionals. I found her enthusiasm for applying strategic communications inspiring. Today, she's successfully sold her first company and is winning real awards with another venture, Get the Shifts, which helps hospitality companies find staffing.

It was recently awarded Best New Business at the Business All Stars awards and it's up for another national award later this month. I asked what her communications key to success is and Hannah told me, "You have to build a network. Don't be afraid to approach people. The worst they can say is 'No'."

As an afterthought, she added a final gem: "And be kind."

There are your secrets, folks. Don't listen to negative thoughts. Take time to encourage one another. And be kind.

PS: If you would like to nominate yourself or someone else who is improving themselves and their career by improving their communications skills, write to me. I may profile you or them in a coming column as a Champion Communicator.

Gina London is a former CNN anchor and international campaign strategist who is now a director with Fuzion Communications. She serves as media commentator, emcee and corporate consultant. @TheGinaLondon. Write to Gina care of SundayBusiness@independent.ie

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