By Chuck Cusumano and Jillian Broaddus
Have you ever listened to a recording of your own voice? If you are like most of us, you cringe at the sound. Why? One explanation – “voice confrontation” – says that the voice in our heads is created by mixing sound transferred through your bones and sound transferred through the air to your ears. The result, science would tell us, is that we all sound deeper in our own heads than we do to others, so the cringe comes from inevitably sounding more “Mickey Mouse” than we originally thought.
However, another explanation I would suggest is from the fact that when we hear ourselves, we hear the habits of our word choices and the full extent of what we reveal during speaking – something linguists refer to as “extra-linguistic cues.” We say and give away more information than we realize: we use “um” as a frequent filler word, we precede most adjectives with “like,” and we express tonality we may not be privy of in our heads. In short, we have formed habits – an acquired behavior pattern regularly followed until it has become almost involuntary.
We all have habits, which differ from a tendency – an inclination or predisposition to do something – or from a routine – a customary or regular course of procedure. Rather, habits are extremely powerful because – when strong enough – will be regulated to our subconscious.
So, more than “voice confrontation,” I believe our real fear is “Habit Confrontation.” (You heard the term here first!) Habit Confrontation is the act of realizing you are repeatedly doing something with no conscious recollection of doing it. For instance, the way you roll your eyes when you are asked to do something you do not like; the way you click your pen in meetings when you are bored; the way you have to arrange your desk before you can do any work.
It started out as just a tendency; then it became a routine; and, finally, after that routine became so well-rooted, we developed a new neural pathway to make it a habit!
Habits aren’t always negative – like the “ums” we put in speech or the eyerolls we instinctively react with. Habits can be powerfully positive – such as the habit of working out, making your bed, or saying “please” and “thank you”!
In order to take power over our habits, we only need to be proactive. Start by taking an inventory of your existing habits. Then, have a Habit Confrontation with yourself! Monitor your actions as they become tendencies, then routines, and – finally – habits. Because once rooted in your brain and muscles, it is a powerful behavior that many of us struggle to break.
“Cultivate only the habits that you are willing should master you.” – Elbert Hubbard