Luba Diasamidze
Representative of International Coach Centre ISTOK in China, PCC ICF Coach, Executive Coach
January 20th
Questions to Stop Negative Self-Talk

“I cannot do it”, “I should wait before I’m ready”, “I’m not good/smart/attractive enough” – how often do you tell these phrases to yourself?

Negative self-talk is common, and even very successful people cannot avoid it. Although it’s important to be objective and work on your areas for improvement, it’s also vital to avoid self-destructive thoughts and limiting beliefs. Good ideas, positive feelings and meaningful actions come from liberating thoughts and assumptions, not the negative ones.

Keira, 28

Web developer

Keira wanted to leave her job at an advertising agency, as she was unhappy with her workload and schedule. She delayed her resignation many times, as wasn’t sure she could support herself as a freelancer.

Will I be able to pay my bills? How can I find new clients? There’s too much competition.

Is there a way to change this thinking pattern?

Nancy Kline developed the technique of creating incisive questions to challenge limiting beliefs and negative self-talk. To breakthrough from bad to good you need to walk your mind through roughly this sequence of questions:

1. What am I assuming that is limiting my thinking here?

2. What am I assuming that is most limiting my thinking here?

3. Is that assumption true?

4. What is a liberating true alternative to the limiting assumption?

5. If I knew (insert true alternative), what would I think or feel or do?

(Source: “Incisive Questions” by Nancy Kline, Advisor Blog Central)

For example, if your goal is to get more things done during the day

Step 1. Start with question 1. “What am I assuming that is stopping me from getting more things done?” Try to find as many assumptions as you can.

Step 2. Use questions 2 and 3 to find the key untrue assumption.

E.g., Key Untrue Limiting Assumption: Everyone needs my help, so I don’t have time for my own tasks.

Step 3. Use questions 4 and 5 to build an Incisive Question.

Liberating True Alternative Assumption: I have choice about what I prioritize. I’m not the only person who can help.

Incisive question: If I accepted that I had choice about what I prioritize, what would I change to get more things done?

Good job! You’ve started to liberate yourself!

Here’s what Keira’s process of creating liberating beliefs looked like:

1.     If I leave, I won’t be able to earn money as a freelancer, because nobody will hire me.

2.     I’m assuming I am not good at what I do. However, this assumption is false, as I have all the necessary competencies and my employer and clients are happy with the quality of my work.

3.     I am skilled enough to find clients independently.

4.     If I believed in my skills and abilities, what would I try to prove myself I can find new clients? (e.g. I would post an ad in my social media account and try to get at least one new client”.

Negative self-talk stops can stop many people from taking action.

Jordan, 32


Jordan had spent 8 years in his position. He did his job well and earned everyone’s respect. He was hoping to get a promotion for years, but it never came. He never asked his line manager about it, and the boss never offered to talk. Jordan loved the company and didn’t want to leave, but the situation started to frustrate him.

Here’s how Jordan started forming new helpful beliefs:

1. I think I don’t work hard enough, as my boss doesn’t offer a promotion to me.

2. I am not good enough. I don’t deserve it. This assumption may not be true, as my colleagues value my advice and expertise.

3. I am competent, but my boss may be too busy to know each employee’s individual track record. He may not even know I am interested in taking additional responsibilities.

4. If I believed I was ready for promotion and deserved it, I would take initiative and ask my boss what career development is possible for me.

Clare, 37

Housewife returning to work

Clare used to be a professional accountant, but she quit when she had a child. Now her daughter went to school and Clare felt ready to go back to work. Her family supported her, but she couldn’t force herself to start sending her resume to employers, as she was afraid of rejections.

This is how Clare started changing her thinking patterns:

1. Nobody will want to hire me after such a long break.

2. I’m assuming I lost value as a professional. This assumption is not quite true. I haven’t updated professional knowledge for a while, but I am good at the basics, and I can take some time to learn what I missed.

3. My strong background in accounting makes me competitive in the job market.

4. If I believed that my strong background could attract employers, I would attend a short-term review course for accountants.

The unspoken words only we can hear shape how we think and act.

Do you have negative assumptions about yourself? Which of them hurts you most, you feel? If you knew it weren’t true, what would you start with?

Author: Luba Diasamidze

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Luba Diasamidze
Representative of International Coach Centre ISTOK in China, PCC ICF Coach, Executive Coach