I first discovered the benefits of talking with myself back in college. To be clear, I’m referring to an actual dialog, not the muttering or rambling that is often associated with talking to oneself. In my version I actually pose questions, either verbally or in my head, and then formulate a response, which in turn leads to follow-up questions, forcing me to further refine or elaborate my thoughts. To be truthful, as an interviewer I can be pretty tough on myself, and like Barbara Walters I’ve even been known to elicit some occasional tears.
Although when I first started talking with myself it was limited primarily to gathering my ideas for papers or presentations, the scope of my internal dialog has become quite expansive. Over time, I have found this exercise to be helpful in virtually every aspect of my life, allowing me to reflect on my experiences and observations and clarify my views and philosophies across all domains. It has also helped me to cope with crises and low points, forcing me to articulate core beliefs, concerns, and disappointments while finding silver linings and truths on which to build.
But beyond helping to guide me through my own personal and professional journey, my internal interview process has proven beneficial for those around me who are seeking growth- both those who are conscious of their quest and those who are less aware, namely, my own children. Before you raise the ethical question of whether it’s right to inflict my world views and strategies on my own children- a question that has been raised by my particularly precocious and impertinent 12 year old (see post- “Why Rubrics are Maddening” for more on her)- please read the rest of the post before passing judgment. You will hopefully see that the internal interview process is simply a mirror that forces reflection and clarity, allowing the person- of whatever age- to practice being an expert, owning their experiences and views and having an opportunity to be heard- exactly what most of us (especially my 12 year old) are waiting for.
So here’s how it works, get comfortable with assuming 2 distinct roles- the interviewer who finds you fascinating and is genuinely interested in probing your thoughts and observations; and you as the expert who has a wealth of experiences, gifts, and observations to reflect upon and share. Find somewhere comfortable to talk with yourself. My absolute favorite interview location is my car, while on the way to my office, meetings, or wherever. I admit that I used to be a little embarrassed when people in passing cars would stare at me while I talked with myself, but ever since Bluetooth technology came out, it’s no longer an issue.
You can of course customize your topics and conversations based on your circumstances and areas of focus, but I offer the following questions to get you started. Don’t forget to follow up with additional probing questions, as the more you force yourself to clarify and elaborate on your responses, the more you will get from the process. And I should mention an added benefit, when the day comes that you finally do get interviewed by a real professional, not only will you be ready but you will be able to counter with additional- and even better- questions of your own…..
Here are some of my favorites:
- What do you know to be true?
- If you were born to make one contribution to the world- what is it and why is it needed?
- Name the most important people in your life. What do you most appreciate about each of them and why?
- What does being educated mean to you?
- What should all people be entitled to?
- What do you owe and to whom? (not necessarily in the money sense)
- What do you find most disappointing?
- What is the best gift you have ever given? What is the best gift you have ever received?
- In what ways have you been shaped by your family/ ancestors?
- What do you stand for?
I wish I could listen in on your conversations… I’m sure they will be fascinating!