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We are always in conversation with ourselves. We read a line from a book, and we simulate the experience in our minds. It is as if we are the characters leaving footprints on the snow-covered streets of London. We taste the brownie from the small pastry shop down the block, and it reminds us of the ones our grandmother would bake every Christmas. The reflections we have as we imagine and remember experiences and ideas is called intrapersonal communication. Unlike its interpersonal counterpart, our conversation is contained within the private halls of our minds.
Intrapersonal communication is the inward interaction with ourselves based on previous external experiences. We rely on this for making plans, judgments, and decisions. We engage in inner conversations after an external motivation, such as a line of a book or the taste of a pastry. Even though the interaction is within ourselves, it is still a form of communication. And the conversation remains useful although it is generally imperceptible by another person.
We often communicate within ourselves to adjust and function in a situation. Without giving it much thought, it is our nature to talk to ourselves before doing an action. For instance, we are asked to jump over a fissure on the ground. If we have learned from experience, we know better than to jump right away. However, we would still be internally debating if we would or would not jump. We also have to mentally calculate how high we should jump and if we can do it right away without running first. As such, it seems universal for us to evaluate situations and discuss judgments inside our heads. Intrapersonal communication lets us process the moment and provide rational reactions. In addition, it gives room for us to learn how to communicate effectively. Could it be possible that there are more differences than similarities in how everyone seems to communicate with themselves?
Having internal conversations inside one’s head seemed a universal nature that no one seems to talk about it. That is why the revelation that not everyone has this self-talk had the shock and oddity elements for a viral tweet. According to the person who posted the tweet, some people think verbally while others process abstract thoughts. The tweet produced a dichotomy of thought narrators and thought illustrators where neither can’t imagine the reality of the other.
How do you explain something you could not grasp? Academics have compromised that internal monologue isn’t a duality of haves and have nots. A recent study maintained that even when people think they have mental narrations, they also use mental imagery to process their thoughts. A lot of people who claimed to have an inner speech are also thinking through images, whether it is intentional or not. The researchers posited that this could be because our brain’s capacity to visualize develops much earlier in our development than our language skills.
Whether you think in words or pictures, chances are you are both. And even if you sit on either end of the spectrum, scientists advise to stop thinking too much about it. Regardless, it wouldn’t matter as much how you communicate with yourself. Your headspace is your personal space where you are completely yourself. Think in a way that you find comfortable.
Your internal voice or mental imagery, on most times, keep you company as you take action on different matters. When you’re a shy person in a crowd, it will encourage you to befriend others or reduce your discomfort by showing you images of your room to look forward to. When you are speaking in public, your inner voice creates a script of the speech that you would follow along. And like a photo album, it flips through pages of fond memories in your head when you feel down.
It doesn’t always work your way, though. You might be taking an exam, and all you can remember is the lyrics to a song. Or you suddenly don’t know what to say while in front of a crowd. Sometimes, you remember embarrassing moments that would make you want to shrink into the ground again. Despite that, our intrapersonal communication lets us co-exist harmoniously with the world. Before we can improve, we have to assess our skills properly. When we work on our intrapersonal skills, we can improve our self-concept and our interaction with the people around us. We can’t change who we are, but through motivated efforts, we can project ourselves better.
When we are aware of how we think and of the rationale and motivations for doing so, we can make our inner conversation work for us more often than it does not. Indeed, awareness on the personal level helps us improve our self-concept, manage our emotions, refine our understanding, and build relationships. Effective communication with others starts with how we communicate with ourselves. Therefore, we must improve our intrapersonal intelligence by exercising the following reminders.
Listen to what you feel. This advice is not exclusively for those with active internal monologue. Everyone should feel safe inside their brain. It is a safe space to be vulnerable and exposed. Your emotions are valid. Just be honest with yourself about what you feel and why something made you feel that way. When you are aware of these thoughts, you can be more in control of your emotions and of how you channel them externally. For example, you are nervous about a presentation speech. Acknowledge that you are nervous and that it is okay to be. Doing so can help you calm down before the activity.
It is alright to be disappointed over something that went wrong. There will be more sad moments that will come your way. However, this shouldn’t be the end for you. Sometimes, you have to accept that some things will not turn out as planned. Be sad over them as any normal person would, but you also have to get back on your feet after. Look at what else you can do about it. Assess what went wrong and how you can avoid that in the future. Having a positive perspective in life will not save you from some lonely nights, but it is a motivation that something better will come.
In this section, we will use situations that occur in conversations. However, the advice encompasses non-verbal communication, too. To hear means you received external stimulus from a conversation. To listen means you paid attention to more than what was said but how it was said. Digest the verbal message and non-verbal context first before responding. Let the speaker finish his or her thoughts first. Give yourself a few seconds to create a coherent and appropriate reaction. While it is an asset to connect and empathize with others, the importance of great listening skills is very much underappreciated these days.
Sometimes, you will have no one else to turn to in keeping your morale up but yourself. If everyone else puts you down, don’t join the mob of anti-you. Make it your personal goal to find something good about yourself and your day. Maybe your hair is on its best behavior today, or you like the breakfast you prepared yourself. Count these affirmations as good things about yourself. When your day is void of life, or you had your worst one yet, go back to these things that you love about you. Keep giving yourself these small rays of sunshine. There is always a reason to love yourself. And when you do, it shows in how you bring yourself.
Talking to ourselves helps build our self-image and change the way we project ourselves. The more we are perceptive of our thoughts and emotions, the more we can empathize with the world. The change in how we think and communicate seems so little, but the impact it has on us and with the people around us can be drastic. It also drives our personal and professional growth. By essentially looking into our concept of the self, we can improve how we interact with the world.