Would you really yell at an employee for missing a deadline? Do you swear at people who blow off meetings or forget about appointments? Hopefully, the answer is no. Now, let’s ask another question. Would you talk to or treat an employee the way you speak to yourself?

That’s always a good question to ask yourself, but it becomes especially important when you work remotely. Why? Because somedays the voice in your head is the only one you hear for hours at a time. What kind of self-talk do you offer yourself? Are you supportive and kind, or are you a bully and borderline abusive?

Maddy Malhotra, author of How to Build Self-Esteem and be Confident: Overcome Fears, Break Habits, Be Successful and Happy, says :

“Our best friend and our worst enemy reside within us. Unfortunately, most of us access the latter far more often than the former.”

Whether it’s a child, a puppy, or Bob in Accounting, we know that a constant stream of negative feedback create long-lasting problems and can cause resentment, disengagement and worse. Why would you treat yourself worse than someone who works for you?

Here are some ways to manage the way you speak to yourself, and give yourself the grace you offer others all the time:

Watch your word choice.

We say we “shouldn’t ever” do certain things. We call ourselves terrible names (at least I do) using language that would make a sailor blush. One of the biggest moments in my professional growth is when I found myself saying, “I can’t,” too often. By stopping whenever I hear myself say, “I can’t” and intentionally replacing it with, “I haven’t been able to yet…”  I offer the possibility of improvement and take an awful lot of pressure off myself.

Ask yourself: “How would I coach an employee who did this?”

This goes beyond just cussing yourself out. When you are caught in a spiral of negative self-talk, stop. Forget that you’re the person who messed this up (assuming you did, but that’s the next bullet.) How would you counsel someone on your staff who did that? This might mean confessing a mistake to a superior or a teammate, but the cycle of negativity is broken and you can focus on changing the outcome. There’s also a better than even chance the solution isn’t that hard to come buy once you stop affixing blame.

The mistake and its consequences likely aren’t as dire as you think.

In a few chosen professions, decisions and consequences are life and death. For most of us, they are degrees of inconvenience and embarrassment. There are very few account-related fatalities. Your inner voice tends to exaggerate the potential negative outcomes.

Stop talking to yourself and talk to someone else.

When we work apart from our manager, colleagues and teammates it’s easy not to reach to others unless it’s “really important.” Well, the way you talk to and about yourself does have important consequences for the quality of our work, our engagement with our job and even our physical well-being. Reach out to a friend or a trusted co-worker. Lay out the situation and ask how they’d coach you on this problem. Use those words, if that helps. Talk out possible solutions and ask their opinion of your work. Odds are they have a much higher opinion of you and your capability than you do (at least at that moment.)

Just because you’re alone, and the only voice you hear is your own means you have to listen to it.

All of this is about being a good remote teammate. Take the next step and check out the 12 Weeks to Being a Great Remote Teammate learning program.


Wayne Turmel--The Remote Leadership Institute

Wayne Turmel
Co-Founder and Product Line Manager

Wayne Turmel is the co-founder and Product Line Manager for the Remote Leadership Institute. For twenty years he’s been obsessed with helping managers communicate more effectively with their teams, bosses and customers. Wayne is the author of several books that demystify communicating through technology including Meet Like You Mean It – a Leader’s Guide to Painless & Productive Virtual Meetings, 10 Steps to Successful Virtual Presentations and 6 Weeks to a Great Webinar. His work appears frequently in

Wayne, along with Kevin Eikenberry, has co-authored the definitive book on leading remotely, The Long-Distance Leader: Rules for Remarkable Remote Leadership. You can pre-order Kevin and Wayne’s follow-up book, The Long-Distance Teammate, now.

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Wayne Turmel has been writing about how to develop communication and leadership skills for almost 26 years. He has taught and consulted at Fortune 500 companies and startups around the world. For the last 18 years, he’s focused on the growing need to communicate effectively in remote and virtual environments.

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