The Voices In Your Head

Gallwey's Philosophy

Gallwey's work with corporations began soon after his coaching and his book on tennis made him well-known as a teacher with a unique approach that produced remarkable results. AT&T hired him to teach telephone operators how to be more courteous, and Gallwey responded with a training program, "The Inner Game of Operating," used for nearly the entire Ma Bell system.

"Learning" and "coaching" have become mainstream buzzwords today, along with "team-building" and other concepts relating to knowledge workers. Gallwey says public interest in the inner-game approach, which relates to those trends, has grown "1,000 percent" since he developed it in the early 1970s. Since that time, he's gained a blue-chip client list and sold more than one million copies of his books on the inner games of golf, skiing, tennis and a hefty number of other topics, without so much as a corporate brochure for The Inner Game Corp., his own consulting firm located in Agoura Hills, California.

One of Gallwey's premises is that inside each person are two selves. Self 1 is the critical, fearful, self-doubting voice; for example, the one inside the head of a salesperson that repeats instructions such as: "Stress the benefits. Meet her objections. Don't blow it! Now-close!" Those hectoring admonishments, Gallwey says, hinder the accomplishment of the job by Self 2, which encompasses all the inner resources, potential and actual, of the individual. If you can get Self 1 to be quiet, Gallwey says, Self 2 will not only get the job done better, but also learn effectively sans lectures and instructions.

Getting Self 1 out of the way so Self 2 can learn and act is actually a fairly straightforward process. One trick is to focus your attention, but not on your performance. That just causes stress and mucks up Self 2. Instead, focus on a critical variable relating to the performance. For instance, Gallwey teaches tennis players to focus on the way an approaching ball is spinning. He tells phone operators to focus on the amount of tension in voices of callers to directory assistance. He taught a symphony tuba player to play better by focusing not on the sound of the notes but on the way the player's tongue felt during a practice session.

Another part of the process involves being clear about what game you're playing. This means, among other things, knowing why you're playing (or working). For instance, you can either play to win or to have fun. Either reason is fine, Gallwey says, but it's important to keep that goal in mind. As an example of how this can be applied at work, he points to the well-known effectiveness of 5-year-old children trying to sell their parents on something. Children, says Gallwey, thanks to a clear focus on exactly what is desired and a sensitivity to the hot buttons of their sales prospects-the parents-offer a model of attentiveness, trust-building, flexibility and persistence that professional salespeople would do well to emulate.

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This article was originally published in the July 2000 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: The Voices In Your Head.

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