In today’s episode of The Startup Chat, Steli and Hiten talk about inner dialogue.

Inner dialogue, also known as talking to yourself or inner talk, is something a lot of us do. On many occasions, the inner dialogue is negative and strengthens any negative attitude or behavior. On the flip side, inner dialogue can also be a positive thing, one that you can use to your advantage as an entrepreneur.

Tune in to this week’s episode to hear Steli and Hiten thoughts on what inner dialogue is, what conversations you’re having with yourself, how it impacts you and much more.

Time Stamped Show Notes:

00:31 About today’s topic.

01:20 Why inner dialogue is technical.

01:50 How inner dialogue is very common.

02:13 The reason why most of us are not aware that we do this.

02:59 What happens once you’re aware that you’re self-talking.

03:11 How Steli became self aware of his inner dialogues.

03:37 Hiten first realization of inner dialogue.

04:18 How reflecting is a form of self-talk.

05:25 How Hiten self-talk has evolved.

06:15 An advanced level of self talk.

3 Key Points:

  • Inner dialogue is a version of thinking but is not the same as thought.
  • A lot of people are not aware that they talk to themselves.
  • I think I was aware of self talk because I was alone with myself.



Steli Efti: All right.



Hiten Shah: Inner dialogue. All right, let’s go.



Steli Efti: That’s the episode for today, everybody. We’re going to do a little bit of an unusual intro. You heard it. He already said it, inner dialogue, so let’s talk about it.



Hiten Shah: You caught one of my rambles. That’s great.



Steli Efti: Yes. I love when I do that.



Hiten Shah: Inner dialogue. I was going to call this episode “Talking to Yourself”, so that was going to be what I was going to call it.



Steli Efti: Shit.



Hiten Shah: See, so you kind of screwed up, Steli .



Steli Efti: Dammit. Dammit.



Hiten Shah: Okay, so talking to yourself. Let’s talk about talking to yourself. Some people call this self talk, some people call this insanity, but we’re going to call it talking to yourself. The real idea is about the inner dialogue: what conversations are you having with yourself, what are you saying to yourself, and how is that impacting you? Is that about right?



Steli Efti: That is perfectly right. First, as you have done so many times, I love the words that you used to describe the same thing. Inner dialogue is very technical. Talking to yourself is so practical, so real. I love it. I want to start with this. I think for some people what we are talking about might be obvious and they choose to hear more about our thoughts on this, but for some, it might not be so obvious.



Hiten Shah: Yeah, they probably think we’re crazy.



Steli Efti: Yeah, what the fuck is that?



Hiten Shah: We’re crazy people and we talk to ourselves.



Steli Efti: Yes.



Hiten Shah: [Stelly] , you talk to yourself, right?



Steli Efti: I do all the time, and I guarantee-



Hiten Shah: Do you do it out loud?



Steli Efti: No.



Hiten Shah: Okay.



Steli Efti: No, very rarely. Very rarely.



Hiten Shah: All right. Me neither. Maybe in the car sometimes.



Steli Efti: Very rarely, but I can guarantee that everybody that’s listening to this episode, most human beings if not all, are talking to themselves. The reason why we’re not maybe all aware of that is that for a lot of us, when we talk to ourselves, we completely associate that with the concept of thinking. We think we’re thinking when actually it’s a version of thinking. Talking to yourself, inner dialogue, is a version, a flavor, of thought, but it’s not the same as thought. A lot of people are not really self-aware of how they talk to themselves because they think when they talk to themselves, they’re just thinking. They’re not really paying attention to their tonality when they talk to themselves, to the volume, to the things they’re saying to themselves. Once you start really getting awareness of the phenomena of self talk, then you can start paying attention and realizing what your self talk is today. In my case, I don’t know how you did this, but for me it was first realizing it, then paying attention observing it, and then starting to change it and to influence it and not be a victim of whatever self talk I’ve adopted through my environment or through my genetics or whatever, but start to design it, and influence it, stop it, or encourage it, or change it. Were you always aware that you were talking to yourself? That you had self talk? Were you always aware of how you used to talk to yourself? Tell me a little bit about how you think about self talk and how you do it.



Hiten Shah: I grew up as an only child, so I think I was aware of self talk because I was alone a lot with myself and I got used to it. Awareness was probably there from a young age, being an only child and having nobody really around in my space where if it’s quiet, the only person to talk to is yourself. I think that’s important thing to think about. More recently, I had realizations about, at my best, what I’m doing is actually reflecting, and I think reflecting is a form of self talk, in a way, where after an experience I reflect on it and I’m talking to myself about it: How’d it go, what happened, what could I have done better? “Oh, crap. I really pissed that person off,” or “That was really great. I felt great about saying that,” or I gave someone a compliment, or they gave me a compliment. Just how did that thing go? I think we might have talked about this a long time ago, but I love reflecting after doing something, or having a meeting, or some experience, and I tend to do that in my head through self talk. I think that was my first realization of it, and more recently, I think as I became more into meditation and mindfulness and all that kind of stuff, that whole category, which is pretty broad, actually, and very esoteric, even, in some areas. Like [Stelly] hugging trees and stuff, it’s all related. So, mindfulness exercise, if anyone wants to go hug a tree, not like a tree hugger but literally hug a tree, talk to the tree, all that, we’ll do an episode on that eventually again, because I think we’ve done one on that kind of. Anyway, I realized it back when I was a kid about having the awareness. Then, I evolved into realizing that I can reflect upon things, and then more recently I’ve been sort of studying it through meditation or realizing a concept of metacognition, which is basically the idea of thinking about thinking. It’s kind of what we’re doing here, and what we’re talking about is self talk is a form of thinking, right?



Steli Efti: Right.



Hiten Shah: We’re thinking about that type of thinking right now, so you can do that to yourself. Then, there’s another advanced level of that, which would be what someone else is thinking. Somebody I know that I met, he taught me this thing with poker. He’s a professional poker player, and he said, basically, his process of winning is really thinking what they’re thinking you’re thinking they’re thinking you’re thinking and how many layers can you go into that and the depth of that.



Steli Efti: Wow.



Hiten Shah: That’s a whole advanced thing that I’m like, oh wow. That’s next level. I think self talk is super critical. I think there’s positive self talk and negative self talk. When you start out understanding self talk and the idea of talking to yourself, I think you probably will notice negative patterns come up, and that’s what we should talk about, I think.



Steli Efti: Yeah. I think negative habitual self talk. Let’s just zoom in on that, right?



Hiten Shah: All right. Let’s do it.



Steli Efti: First of all, I’m going to throw this out there, and for people that want to know more, just shoot us an email, [inaudible] at We can point you to resources, books and stuff, to learn more about it. The basic concept is that when you’re talking to yourself, just like you would when you talk to somebody else, you actually are hearing your own voice, right? You do. When you hear your own voice, everything matters, not just what you say, what the words are, but the tonality in which you say it and the volume, right? If you want to feel something negative really, really strongly, you might be shouting to yourself angrily something really negative, versus when you’re pumping yourself up, you might be speaking in a really passion-motivated voice to yourself at a really high volume, versus when you’re maybe timid or a little insecure, you might be having an inner dialogue. You might be talking to yourself in a voice that’s very, very low in volume, very hard to understand, very unsure of. I think paying attention to tonality, paying attention to words, paying attention to all those things are really important, but then also, paying attention to moments. Let’s reverse engineer this. Ask yourself, “Are there moments in my life, either at time of day, in the morning, in the afternoon, late at night, or in certain situations that are often recurring, where I feel disempowered or really empowered? Where I feel really strong, and positive, and really energetic and creative? Where I feel really depressed and shitty, or angry, or in self doubt?” Are there moments where you don’t perform at your best and it’s happening quite reliably and quite consistently? Then I would encourage you to pay attention. What kind of self talk is happening just before these moments or when these moments occur? Because a lot of times, over many, many years, we create habitual self talk in certain things. They’re anchors, and every time before I go into a board meeting, because my very first board meeting was a catastrophe, every time before I walk in there, I have this really critical, really horrific self talk where I say terrible things to myself. Of course, it completely impacts my experience and my performance. If I just realize or recognize that, then I can stop that and start working on that and changing the things I’m telling myself just before I go into a board meeting. Or it might be something super positive, but I think we all have these habitual self talk situations that we’re completely unaware of that might be massively impacting how we perform.



Hiten Shah: I really like that, and I like this idea of the habitual self talk. What you’re really looking to do at first is find the patterns in self talk. Ideally, go for the negative patterns because those are the ones that are probably impacting you more than the positive ones in the beginning if you haven’t ever evaluated your self talk. I love the idea, like you said, everyone does it, and the board meeting example’s really good, right? It almost goes back to emotion, too. For example, if you had a horrible board meeting, you get into the board meeting and right away, you’re going in there being like, “Oh, this is stressful. This is going to suck.” Right?



Steli Efti: Right.



Hiten Shah: I think that has to do with the emotion that was created, and then now all of a sudden, you have a language for it and you have a conversation with yourself about it every time it happens, and it’s not a great conversation. It’s negative. You’re dreading it. There’s feelings around it. There’s an emotion around it. I think another thing to recognize is prior to the self talk, what are the emotions you feel that you might not be recognizing currently? Usually it’s not the talk that’s the start of something. It’s actually some feeling or some emotion comes before the language.



Steli Efti: Right.



Hiten Shah: What are you feeling? Getting into the board meeting example’s great because you probably feel nervous. You feel anxious. You feel like you don’t want to screw it up because you did in the past, and someone got mad at you or whatever. How do you get past that? You start creating positive self talk, right? Let’s say I couldn’t answer any questions that the board members had in the meeting would be a version of negative self talk before you go into the meeting or while you’re even creating the [inaudible] , and the emotions, anxiety, and nervousness, and feeling not good enough. Then, what you can do is you can apply, just getting to some tactics here, you can apply an opposite and say, “I’m actually great. I have answers to every question that they ask, and if I don’t, I’ll tell them I don’t have the answer and I’ll get it for you.”



Steli Efti: Right.



Hiten Shah: I might get feedback that I should already know it, but then I’ll say, “Okay, I’ll make sure that I’m up to speed on this all the time from now on. Thanks for the feedback.” It’s kind of like how do you talk to yourself about future situations or [inaudible] situations you’re about to be in in a positive manner, even if there are a lot of emotions around it or you’ve had a bad experience in the past? This is how you get stuff done. This is how you do things that are challenging. This is how you do things that might have scarred you in the past but things that you kind of have to do.



Steli Efti: Yeah. I love that. I think we all are way more careful of how we talk to others than we are of how we talk to ourselves.



Hiten Shah: That’s really powerful.



Steli Efti: We would never say the terrible and horrible things to somebody else and then expect them to perform well the way we do sometimes with ourselves where we talk, we say really weird, terrible, disempowering things. We use terrible words, and then we’re confused why we don’t feel good, and why we don’t perform well, and why we don’t accomplish the things we want. Just be more careful how you talk to yourself. Be kinder to yourself in the way you talk to yourself. Be more mindful of what you say to yourself. I think that’s the really big message of this episode.



Hiten Shah: There you go. Watch your self talk. Talk to yourself positively, not negatively. Yep.



Steli Efti: That’s it from us. Let’s all talk to each other a little bit better, and too ourselves, for sure. Bye bye.



Hiten Shah: Later.