Will the Voices in My Head Please Be Quiet?

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Jeff Cole

We all have voices in our heads – our internal monologue if you will. All thinking really is anyway is the process of asking yourself questions and answering them – right? Sometimes those voices in our heads can get in the way – they can be very loud and can trigger emotional and physical responses. You’re skeptical? Case in point…

Put yourself in this situation. I’ve just placed a wooden plank on the floor that is 12 inches wide, 3 inches thick and 10 feet long. If I ask you to walk the length of this plank you might do so quite easily and with no reservations. The voice in your head may be a very faint whisper along the lines of "What is this whack-job up to?"

When telling them to take the plunge, don’t expect everyone to be as excited as you…

Same scenario, but a change of location. New York City, upper-east side. I’ve just placed the plank across a narrow alleyway between two buildings 80 ft. in the air. Sorry I couldn’t afford any safety wires, but there are no winds today so please be my guest. Same task, same level of physical difficulty. The primary difference? That voice in your head is now screaming and opening a flood-gate of neurochemicals into your system. It’s message – something along the lines of "No, thank you".

"Hey pal – not me!" some readers are thinking. For them the voice in their head is screaming "Yes – let’s do this!" Which brings us to our main point – it’s all about perspective. These voices go way back to our childhoods. It why, early on in sports, some kids run for the ball and others away from the ball. Some kids can’t wait to stick their heads underwater and others prefer dry land.

Would you walk the plank? If given the choice, your decision is a function of your default perspective. Do you view this in a positive or negative light?

Could you walk the plank? Absolutely. Guess what? We get to manage and if need be override that voice in our heads. We all have default perspectives and voices. Sometimes they serve us well to the point of saving our lives. Other times they may hold us back. We can choose what we say to ourselves in our internal monologues.

So What? For those of us driving process change in any organization, we have to keep in mind that the voices in your audience’s heads will not all be saying the same thing that’s in your head. Not everyone is going to be chomping at the bit to embrace your change.

For those that view your proposed changes negatively, think about this: Walking that plank, while frightening, becomes much more attractive if it (A) remedies some pain or (B) is the less painful of options. If there was a raging fire and your only way out was to walk the plank, you’d zip right across.

When communicating change, many make the mistake of only noting the logistical aspects of the change. Some go so far as to mention the benefits of "walking the plank" – like remedying some pain the audience has. The best communicators also lay out compelling evidence on how this change (while uncertain and maybe frightening to some) is less painful than our old ways. They paint vivid and clear pictures of the consequences of not changing.

While logic can propel some forward, emotion drives many people much farther and faster. Use these tips to help influence the voices in your audience’s heads and make your next change rollout go like clockwork.