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Three Simple Communication Shifts That Will Improve Your Performance

Mindset Made Simple Tip #184 – Watch or listen HERE.

I was given a great opportunity this weekend to create a new class for the graduate program at UA next year.    HOW FUN!  The topic?  COMMUNICATION!  Perfect!  Right up my alley!

Since the effects of communication on leadership and performance have been on my mind for the past 48 hours, it’s a perfect time to look at this important tool and how we communicate with others and in our heads.  As Trevor Moawad says in It Takes What It Takes, “Words are tools. They predict and perpetuate behavior.” 

I think we can all agree that the way we communicate on the inside and the outside affects not only our behavior but the behavior of those around us!

As I mentioned in Tip #175, words matter.  In fact, The Gottman Institute found that they could predict with 93.6% accuracy which couples that they observed for a mere 15 minutes would divorce based on how they communicated with each other. 

Did you just do a quick review of your communication tendencies?  I did!

Austrian psychologist Paul Watzlawick goes as far as saying “All behavior is some form of communication.” These behaviors are impactful!

EVERYTHING WE DO COMMUNICATES SOMETHING!  Behavior is communication!  Period!

How important is this as a leader?  And how often do we consider this when we are with people…which as a leader, is a lot?

So, you’re saying, Juile, that everything I do is saying something?  Yes!  That is exactly what I am saying.  I will also say that I am not sure this was something I used to my advantage nearly enough.  I think it often became a disadvantage!

Thus, lesson #1 in my class – consider how your behaviors, whether they are subtle or overt, are telling those around you a ton.  You cannot not communicate.

We know better than this, but what we see on TV and social media would have us think that it’s the big speeches and the motivational interactions leaders have with their people that make a difference in performance.  The truth is, it’s the little things we often overlook that have the most impact!   

Think about it, you turn your back, avoid eye contact, change your expression, and cross your arms.  You move closer or faster.  You shift your weight or lean in.  All these things communicate something.  And those around you not only see them.  They feel them!

I don’t think I need to describe the multitude of ways this can affect your environment and influence the performance of those around you!

That “behavior is communication” thing hit me the other day when I heard it in a podcast and I thought it may be something you need to hear, too!  I wish I had posted it on my office door so I could read it every time I went in and out.  My behaviors are communicating something.  My behaviors are a choice.  I need to choose them wisely!

The next lesson would begin a segment of the course about the words you use in your inner chatter and chats with others. Going back to Trevor’s quote above, what we say serves as a prediction of what is to come and can keep us moving in one direction or the other. 

One word every leader needs in his or her vocabulary is “yet”!  This little word can make all the difference between persistence and throwing in the towel!

Little old "yet" serves as a linguistic bridge between our present challenges and our growth potential.  If my high school long jumper says, “I can’t jump 23 feet.”  It makes it seem set in stone.  If he says “I can’t jump 23 feet. yet” it implies we just aren’t there yet, but the work we are doing on the track and in our mind is moving us closer to that distance!  It’s possible!

Yet reframes our narratives, encouraging a more positive and proactive approach to tough stuff. By incorporating this simple word into our vocabulary, we prime our brain…we predict… the possibility of continuous improvement and the belief that our abilities are not fixed but rather evolving. 

This is SO important for today’s athlete who expects to start as soon as they walk on a college campus.  Or the new employee who thinks she will lead the big projects as soon as she gets her keys. “I’m not a starter” becomes “I’m not a starter, yet!”  Maybe this mindset will keep her out of the portal 😊.

This simple word is part of our journey of personal and professional development.  It seems crazy, but the power of "yet" can become a guiding force, reminding us that we may not be there now, but if we are working and planning, we are setting ourselves up for future success.  And even if we don’t “start”, we have grown and improved and that feels a lot better than any statement that tells us what we aren’t!

Another lesson in this section seems like a lesson from English class, but it is really a lesson in managing the 320 State of the Union Addresses we say to ourselves every day.  According to Ethan Kross, author of Chatter: The Voice in Our Head, Why It Matters, and How to Harness It, the voice in our head clicks off words so quickly it would be like saying 4000 words a minute out loud!  And my sister thinks I talk too fast when people can hear it…now we know we all do on the inside!

All this talk affects Lesson #1, so finding ways to manage it will help us manage challenges and be better leaders.  One simple tip to help us deal with the constant chatter that can impede our performance is to go back to our middle school English class and revisit talking in the first, second and third person.


I think the first, second and third thing is counterintuitive, so as a reminder, speaking in the third person is me saying “Julie is typing her tip”…which gets odd looks if you talk like this in public

But doing it in your head has great advantages.  Research looking at the language we use to refer to ourselves has reliably found that “I-talk” or the use of first-person pronouns is correlated with negative emotion.  Research by Eichstaedt, et. al. (2018) found by evaluating the number of I-talk in Facebook posts they could predict depression.

A shift from “I” to “Julie” (using your name seems weird enough so make sure you use yours, not mine 😊), allows us to distance ourselves from our words.  

It reduces our stress, helps us look at things from a different perspective (a 30,000 ft. view), helps us think more rationally and allows us to coach ourselves like someone else is talking to us.  It backs us out of our “all up in our head” space and provides some distance for us to get a better grip on what is really going on.

It’s a simple shift from listening to talking…and evaluating without all the emotion that comes along with what “I” can or can’t do!

There will be so much more to my class, but these three simple lessons can change our performance for the better.  So many big things start with such simple shifts.   As the saying goes, "Words…and behaviors…have energy and power with the ability to help, to heal, to hinder, to hurt, to harm, to humiliate, and to humble” both inside and out. 

Simple shifts can be seismic!!


P.S. Communication is key. Does your team need to be better with the words they choose inside and out?  Shoot me a text at 234-206-0946 or an email at and get scheduled for a session today!

Julie Jones

Mental Performance Coach

SSB Performance • 234-206-0946 

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