We all engage in intrapersonal communication on a constant basis. Although intrapersonal communication comes naturally to all of us, being mindful and methodical about utilizing interpersonal communication in your personal and professional life can be a powerful technique for building confidence, clarity, and conviction around your life goals. And in turn, this allows you to bring your best self to work as a product manager.
Leveraging strong intrapersonal communication will elevate your personal growth and help you grow into the product leader you want to be. In this article, you’ll learn more about interpersonal communication, the components that encompass it, and how to incorporate it into your daily life as PM.
Intrapersonal communication describes how you communicate with yourself. It could be that voice in the back of your head during daily scenarios, or it could be a louder internal monologue that you engage in as you make decisions.
Although intrapersonal communication is very broad in nature, it can help you accomplish a couple key goals that are relevant for personal and professional growth. This includes building self-awareness, defining your self-concept, and refining your self-esteem.
Self-awareness refers to how attuned you are to who you are as a person; this includes your personality, emotions, strengths, and weaknesses. Importantly, this awareness of who you are should align with how others perceive you as well. Self-awareness is driven by an objective understanding of yourself that isn’t clouded by personal biases, ego, or insecurities.
Self-concept speaks to how you define yourself as a person — encompassing physical traits, emotional characteristics, as well as things like personality and values. This might also include life goals or what you want to accomplish.
Self-esteem is how you judge and value yourself. Are you confident and do you like the person that you are?
Think about when you’ve sat down to write your New Year’s Resolutions. You typically engage in an internal dialogue to ask yourself things like: what do I care about accomplishing this year? (self-concept), do I feel like I can accomplish these things? (self-esteem), and am I ready and well-positioned to accomplish these things? (self-awareness).
Product management sits at the intersection of many teams, personalities, and egos. In fact, product management is one of the most cross functional roles out there! And with that comes the need to be able to work well with others during good times and bad times.
Intrapersonal communication can help you navigate the complexities of balancing relationships with team members who you’re trying to lead, influence, or work with.
Although product managers often focus on the analytical aspects of decision-making, there are significant emotional aspects to decision-making as well. Your judgment can be influenced by the interactions that you have with others. Perhaps one of the team members who always gives you a hard time came up with the best idea. You might want to find a bunch of different reasons not to go with that idea without even realizing you’re doing it.
Or, perhaps you’re feeling low on self-esteem at your new job and you made a decision that turned out to be a mistake. Rather than admitting that you were wrong, you double down on your mistake hoping things will turn out alright. The seemingly small outside factor of not feeling entirely at home in your new role can influence your ability to make the right decisions and intrapersonal communication can help clarify when you’re falling into these traps.
When faced with difficult, amorphous challenges that need to be solved, it’s easy to get frustrated. You might feel like the problem is insurmountable and you might not know how to even get started with solving it. In these situations, controlling your internal monologue via intrapersonal communication can help you quell those tiny voices in your mind that contribute to stress, while also helping you work through how to break down a problem in a way that you can tackle it.
You can leverage different techniques to create structure around problem-solving in ways that help you tap into intrapersonal communication. Mind mapping is one example of a popular way to break down difficult problems. With mind maps, you start with a problem or question and break it down into smaller pieces. You can group different ideas together and connect them with each other. This is a great way to brainstorm ways to solve your problem. Coming up with a grading criteria is also an excellent way to break down problems. I like to write down pros and cons and assign scores to various categories.
Leveraging intrapersonal communication can work wonders when it comes to figuring out how to prioritize your roadmap and your personal time. At work, you’re constantly distracted by notifications, social events, and fires that we have to put out. Intrapersonal communication can help you focus your energy and efforts on the right things, blocking out the everyday noise that can make it really hard to focus and get things done.
When it comes to prioritization, I find that leveraging templates is a powerful tool to guide your intrapersonal communication. There are many frameworks out there, including things like RICE (Reach, Impact, Confidence, Effort) or a value versus effort matrix. You can also come up with your own framework to guide your unique prioritization needs.
For example, in my role as a product manager at startups, I focus more on making big bets — which bets are needle moving, map to business and customer needs, and are low risk? My criteria might be different from some of the frameworks out there, which are better fits for later stage product management. Similarly, you can come up with your own frameworks.
Perhaps most obviously, intrapersonal communication can help you navigate conflicts. You know how easy it is to get caught up in an argument, get frustrated, and even say things you didn’t mean to say. Understanding your emotions and reactions via intrapersonal communication helps figure out how to react to conflicts in more productive ways.
Although you can leverage some of the structured thinking techniques we covered above when thinking through how to resolve conflicts, including thinking through each party’s priorities and incentives, conflicts are often emotional in nature. And it’s not just the party you’re having a conflict with who is emotional, it might be you as well!
Two techniques to practice to help you manage your emotional response to conflicts are meditation and mindfulness. By truly connecting with how you feel, you’ll be able to channel those feelings into more productive outlets, allowing you to deal with conflicts in a calm and professional manner.
Beyond solving work challenges as a product manager, intrapersonal communication is effective in helping you manage your career growth. Your career growth is something that you should define, clarify, and plan for. So perhaps the most important intrapersonal communication component to spend time on is self-reflection.
You should explicitly create time in your schedule for self-reflection, as self-reflection is essential to helping define and clarify your career goals. During this time, you can build self-awareness and set goals that match your long-term vision for your life. If you’ve blocked time off for self-reflection, but you aren’t entirely sure what to do during that time, I would suggest journaling.
Journaling is an effective technique that can help you spend time on focused self-reflection. It’s not necessary to be too structured or rigid with how you journal, but it’s necessary to do it on a semi-regular cadence. Some people find it useful to write down daily reflections, while others do it on a weekly cadence. I personally set a calendar invite at the end of the week to block off time to journal. I like to cover the following topics in my journaling: lessons learned, wins, and progress towards goals.
As you start to develop a habit around journaling, you’ll discover that the act of writing down your goals and how you want to achieve them on a regular basis will also help you cultivate a growth mindset. When you write down your wins, you build self-confidence and self-esteem.
There are definitely times when you might get writer’s block and struggle to put pen to paper. In these situations, meditation, yoga, and other mindfulness techniques are useful. My startup team actually stretched together for fifteen minutes every day to clear our minds and set ourselves up for a great day. Of course, we did this remotely!
As a product manager, you’re constantly pulled between different tasks that require strategic, tactical, and critical thinking. On top of that, you’re expected to work well with your peers, mediate conflicts, and make tough decisions. At the core of all of these job functions, lies your ability to think clearly through different challenges.
This clarity of thought is improved and powered by intrapersonal communication. By mastering different intrapersonal communication techniques, you can improve your performance as a product manager, not just in the near term when dealing with day-to-day challenges, but in the long-term via career planning as well.
Featured image source: IconScout
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