“Little Voices”

Tale of the Day:
Befriending Critical Internal Voices

Lucy was working on a manuscript and wanted to become more comfortable in her writing. She wanted to improve her ability to let the information flow easily into type when she sat down to write, instead of having it feel like she was “pulling teeth.” She wanted to enjoy the process of writing and feel good about her work.

When I asked her more about her present experience she said, “I get stuck in old patterns of ‘writer’s block.’ I feel that I have all of the information in my head, but when I go to write it down ‘little voices’ often mess me up, and I am not able to get what is clear in my head down on paper because I get so caught in logistics.”

Lucy made this easy for me by literally telling me of the ‘little voices’ that messed her up. It was clear to me that working with these voices would be the perfect opportunity to get her what she wanted.

“So when you sit down to write, and you’re there typing, what do these voices say to you exactly?”

“They say, ‘It’s not good enough,’ and, ‘This information isn’t valid and won’t be useful to people.’

“Do you recognize these voices from someone or somewhere? Has anyone spoken to you like that before?”

“Yes, my mother and an editor who read my manuscript once.”

“OK, great. Let’s go ahead and fill in the different situations where these people said these things to you, so we get a sense of where they were coming from, limited by their own circumstances and incomplete knowledge.”

We explored the editor first, finding out more about where she’d been coming from in what she’d said to Lucy. With this added information we found that the editor had been doing what she thought was her job – critiquing the manuscript without holding back, in order to improve it. We found the positive purpose of the editor’s harsh words, and Lucy realized she had given her manuscript over before it was really ready for that stage of scrutiny.

“But what the editor said, it was like it just added to the voice of my mother that I’ve had since I was a little girl.”

We did the same thing and filled in the details of different times that her mother had said these kinds of things to her.

“Well, I was a pretty precocious little girl, and I’d sometimes get in a bit of trouble because of it. I was a bit of a free spirit, and that didn’t always fit with the world around me.”

I said, “Now that you remember these circumstances, what do you think your mother’s positive intent was behind saying what she did?”

“She wanted to protect me from taking risks. She wanted me to be normal and not rock the boat. She wanted me to fit in so life would be easier.”

“Great, so she wanted to protect you and make life easier for you?”

“Yeah, I think she was a little jealous of me too. She had a bunch of kids at an early age, and because of this she didn’t get to do some of the things she had wanted to do, like travel the world. She had to work hard to provide for us, so I think she was a little jealous of my free-spiritedness.”

“Interesting, so now you know that when your mother said things like, ‘You’re not good enough.’ and, ‘This isn’t valid and won’t be useful to people.’ She really wanted to protect you and make life easier for you, and she also actually wished she could have done some of the kinds of things you were doing.”


“Go ahead and thank your mother’s voice for looking out for you, in the best way it knew how. Ask this voice if it would like to use words and a tone of voice that you would enjoy listening to, so that it can do a really good job at getting across its positive message to you of making sure you are protected, and that life goes as easy as it can.”

“Yeah, that sounds good.”

“So just notice what this voice would like to say to support you now. It might use the voice tone of a trusted friend, or it might be a combination of the voice tones of various supportive people.”

“There are multiple voices, like before, but now they’re saying, ‘We’ll protect you through the process, and let it flow as long as you are protected.”

“And what is the voice tone like?”

“It’s really nice to listen too, relaxing.”

“Great, it sounds like these voices will help you know when to give a manuscript to someone for feedback and when it’s not ready for that stage. And you’ll know when it’s time for you to just let the words flow, and when it’s time for you to go back through what you’ve written and do all the fine-tuning.”


“Now imagine the next time you sit down to write, noticing what it’s like with all these supportive voices to help you.”

“It’s like I’m in the flow.” She gestured as if her hand were following the gentle falls and pools of a creek. “They’re saying, ‘We’ll help you find the path.’”

Go ahead and imagine all the different times you’ll sit down to write over the next weeks and months, and what it’s like each time with these voices naturally there to support you.

“It’s great!” Lucy kept making the flowing motion with her hand. Her face had more color in it, and her whole body looked relaxed into the new experience.

A month later Lucy said she got what she wanted. When she sat down to write she felt relaxed and confident and was able to let the writing flow.

Tool of the Day:
Clarifying Internal Voices

The following tool is from the up-coming book “More Transforming Negative Self Talk” by Steve Andreas, released Oct. 6th. and available for pre-order on Amazon.com.

1. Select voice “Remember a troublesome internal voice that has criticized your behavior in the present moment, reminded you of past failures or embarrassments, or foretold future failure, etc.”

2. Listen to the voice “Now listen carefully to the sound of this voice—the tonality, volume, tempo, hesitations, etc. that you hear—all the qualities that allow you to recognize someone’s voice on the phone instantly, out of all the thousands of voices you have heard.”

3. Identify voice “Whose voice is this? Is it your voice or someone else’s?” If it is someone else’s voice, go directly to step 4, below. If it is your own voice ask, “Who did you learn from to talk in this way?” If you can’t identify the voice, ask, “If you did know, who would it be?” or “Who does this voice remind you of?”

4. Add image of person “As you hear this voice, see the person who is speaking to you, and watch all their facial movements, expressions, gestures, etc., to find out what else you can learn about their experience as they talk to you.”

5. Larger context “Now expand the scope of what you see and hear to include the larger context in both space and time. Where are you, and what just happened that this person is responding to? View this event in detail, including what happened earlier that was relevant to this event, and also what happened later as a result, in order to understand it more fully and completely.”

6. Notice speaker’s limitations “Notice what that person was simply unable to do because of their upbringing, beliefs, frustrations, or other inadequacies or limitations. Realize that both what they said, and how they said it, may have had very little to do with you, and a great deal to do with their difficulty in communicating clearly and directly.”

7. Clarify message “Would you please clarify your message? What would you say to me if you had been able to express yourself fully, and talk honestly about all your experience of this situation? What is it that you really want me to hear?”

8. Give thanks for any clarification “Thank you for clarifying your communication.” If the communication is still unclear, ask again—as many times as necessary, thanking them for each response—until their communication is clear to you.

9. Ask for the positive intent “What is your positive intent in telling me this?” If the response doesn’t appear to be positive, ask for the intent of this intent. “Thank you; what is your positive intent in telling me that?” You may need to ask several times before you receive an answer that you think is positive, and that you can agree with. Usually the positive intent is some kind of protection, either for you, the voice, a third person, or a group.

10. Give sincere thanks for the positive intent “Thanks very much for telling me your positive intent.” Then ask, “Would you be willing to consider communicating in a different way, so that it would be much easier for me to pay full attention to what it is that you want me to hear?” Usually you will get a “Yes” answer, because this proposed change supports the positive intent in communicating with you even better than what it had been doing. If you get a “No” answer, that means that there has been some miscommunication. Back up one or more steps and clarify the miscommunication before moving forward again.

For additional steps and refinements to this process, see Steve’s up-coming book “More Transforming Negative Self Talk,” released Oct. 6th.

Click here to book a private session with Mark.

  • - Mark Andreas ~ NLP & Coaching Sessions ~ Boulder, CO
    Posted at 22:16h, 14 June Reply

    […] To explore this process on your own, visit this previous blog post and scroll down to the “Tools” section for the process ste…. […]

  • Barrett Vickery
    Posted at 16:13h, 25 June Reply

    Very cool! I understand the positive intent pre-supposition a lot better now. Assuming that people are doing the best they can is an extremely useful belief to have; and like we talked about the other day Mark, whether or not it’s a universal truth doesn’t really matter. Effectiveness on the other hand, does matter, it creates real changes in our lives! Assume only the best!! 🙂

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