I heard  years ago, “When you talk to yourself watch your language.” Good advice then, good advice today. Dan Rockwell shares some helpful ideas on the stories we tell ourselves. Some are true, but many of them are not and can hurt us and our leadership.

Watch your language when talking to yourself

Originally posted by Dan Rockwell

Potential stories:

Normally I greet people warmly, with a handshake or a hug. But over the last few days, I’ve kept my distance. Potential stories…

  1. Dan is upset about something.
  2. Dan is mad at me.

The truth – I have a cold and don’t want to infect people.


Everything done is interpreted through story.

Negative stories erase positive intentions. You’re working to practice kindness. But a gossip says you’re mad.

(Negative stories carry more weight than positive because bad is stronger than good.)

Stories are revelations:

The stories people tell about you are often about them.

The person who receives a short email might think you’re mad. In reality, you value brevity.

  1. Skeptical people use the lens of doubt to interpret actions.
  2. Greedy people think money is motivating you.
  3. Bitter people think you’re out for revenge.


Fill in the blanks before others complete the story for you.

4 things to overcommunicate:

  1. Immediate goals. What are you trying to achieve in the near-term?
  2. Purpose. What are you trying to accomplish in the far-term? What are you sacrificing now, so you can achieve something bigger in the future?
  3. Heart intentions. Everyone needs to know the good that’s in your heart.
  4. Wins. Define wins and then celebrate them every step of the way.

The other side – your stories:

Say what you notice, not the story you make up.

“I notice you hurrying out of the office. What’s happening?”

Avoid asking, “What’s wrong?”

Judgment reveals assumption.

Choose neutral language, rather than ascribing negative intent.

Example: “You don’t seem yourself today. What’s going on for you?”

How might leaders influence the stories people tell themselves?

Bonus material:

The Stories we Tell Ourselves (NY Times)

Why we Need to be Mindful of the Stories we Tell Ourselves (Thrive Global)