Intrapersonal Communication

How to Master the Art of Conversation—with Yourself

According to ancient myth, the Greeks consulted an oracle for answers to the pressing questions of their time. At the oracle’s temple, there was a command etched into the stone above the doorway: “know thyself.” Intrapersonal communication is very, very different from interpersonal communication. And think about this: if it’s something that even the heroes and heroines of Greek myth struggled with, then clearly this is serious business.   Intrapersonal communication, that is, communication with yourself, is a specific talent that takes a lot of patience to develop.  Here’s how you do it.

Make Time for Daily Reflection

Your daily routine can be so packed with activity that it might seem impossible to put it all in perspective.  Intrapersonal communication, or meaningful communication with yourself, is a difficult skill to develop under these kinds of conditions.  So, the first step is to change the conditions.  While you can’t wish away the demands of work, school, and other activities, you can at least make time at the beginning and end of each day to collect yourself.

  • Every morning when you awake and every evening when you go to bed, take 10 minutes to reflect on the day.  If it’s the morning, then think about what you’re expecting to happen.  If it’s the end, then think about all you’ve just finished.
  • Walk through the day’s events, in order from start to finish.

You’ll be surprised at how hard it is to get through this simple recounting.  That’s because we’re very not used to this level of concentration anymore, but it gets easier with practice.  If you can make it through your daily catalogue of events, then you’re ready to go a little deeper.

  • Reflect on the highs and lows, the moments of stress and moments of calm, the frustrating times and the fun times.  How did you feel from one activity to the next?
  • You might be surprised at what you discover about the things that energize you and the things that tire you out.

Look Out for Breaks

You might be surprised at how difficult it is to concentrate long enough to reflect on your day.  It only takes one try to see how out of practice we are with intrapersonal communication.

If that’s the case for you, then you might have a better appreciation for the value of breaks between activities.  Maybe you have an hour between classes, or a 20-minute drive home from work.  You could be waiting for the bus, or walking across campus.  Whatever the case, your automatic response to moments downtime might be to fill them up with more activity, like listening to music, checking Facebook, reading a magazine, or talking to a friend on the phone.  But another way to use this time could be to savor the solitude and relative quiet.

  • Reflect on the day so far, think about what you’re feeling at that moment and why.
  • Try not to worry about everything else you have to do today (we’re not here to add to the to-do list).
  • Instead, let your own thoughts be your entertainment.  Take a friendly attitude toward them.

Keep a Journal.  Keep a Journal.  Keep a Journal.

There isn’t much else to say here, except: keep a journal.  We’re serious now.  Journaling is intrapersonal communication at its best.  History’s greatest leaders, the most respected spiritual guides, and the world’s most famous minds all tend to have one thing in common: they are prolific journal-writers and diary-keepers.  Reflecting on the day’s events?  Open up your journal.  Trying to fill a 10-minute gap with something productive?  Open up your journal.

But journaling is effective for many other things, too.  For one thing, it can help you uncover opinions, beliefs, and ideas you might not have considered.  This can especially be useful before going into a job interview, completing a college application, or any similar situation where you need to explain who you are, what you think, and why you’re unique.  Spend some time journaling beforehand and you’ll have more to say when the time comes.

Journaling also can help you think about a problem differently.  If you’re faced with a tough decision, journaling can help clarify what you know and what you don’t know.  The psychologists Joseph Luft and Henry Ingham developed the Johari window to model how our perception works, and this can be a useful device to trigger ideas when journaling.

Known to me

Unknown to me

Known to others

1
Open

2
Blind

Unknown to others

3
Hidden

4
Unknown

The four panels of the Johari window represent different sides of perception. In the first panel are all the beliefs, behaviors, and opinions about a situation you openly share with others. The second panel represents what others perceive about a situation that you aren’t aware of, and thus this represents the areas where you should seek feedback and input from others. In the third panel are all the things you know and believe about a situation that you choose to keep private. The fourth panel represents whatever is left—the things that are unknown about a situation to both you and others.

Journaling about each of the four panels is useful because it will help you, for instance, remember things you might have forgotten (as in panel 4) or realize something you can ask a friend or co-worker about (as in panel 2).

So what if you’re interested in improving your intrapersonal communication, but journaling sounds too daunting?  If you’re not much of a writer, no problem: you can invest in a cheap voice recorder (many smart phones have one built in) and talk through your ideas instead.

The goal is only to spend more time each day reflecting and listening to your own thoughts.  Cut down on the distractions, find a time of day that works for you, and ultimately your style of intrapersonal communication will be your own.  Intrapersonal communication is like all skills.  It takes time, dedication, and daily practice to get better, but the benefits of a thoughtful attitude toward your daily routine are enormous, and will pay off no matter where your path leads.

 

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