Why You Should Talk To Yourself More — And How To Do It

Drake Baer

Psychologists call it "self-talk," and previous studies have found that self-talk helps improve your willpower and your athletic performance.

New research from the University of Illinois finds that how you talk to yourself matters, specifically which pronoun you use.

For example, when you try to motivate yourself you could use: 

• The first person: "I'm going to crush it!"

• Or the second person: "You're going to crush it!" 

The one you use will affect your outcome. 

In three experiments, psychology students were asked to write out self-advice by addressing themselves as "I" or "you." In one they were a character in a short story, in another they were completing word puzzles, and in a third they were changing their exercise habits. 

In each case, the "you" yielded better outcomes and better self-reported attitudes. 

BPS Research Digest explains

"[Lead author Sanda] Dolcos and her colleagues said theirs was the 'first experimental demonstration' that second-person self-talk is more effective than the first-person variety, thus complementing 'past intuitions and descriptive data' suggesting that people resort to second-person self-talk when in more demanding situations.

The researchers speculate that second-person self-talk may have this beneficial effect because it cues memories of receiving support and encouragement from others, especially in childhood. 'Future work should examine ways to actually train people to strategically use the second-person in ways that improve their self-regulation' ... they said."

So the next time you give a big presentation, make sure you tell yourself that you are going to crush it.

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