Zen of Jen: Who are You Really Talking To?

by Jennifer Miller on October 9, 2014

in Personal Effectiveness, Zen of Jen

Ever read any self-help books? If so, you’re most likely familiar with the term “self-talk” which, as its name suggests, is the act of talking to oneself. There’s negative self-talk (“I’m such an idiot – why did I do that?”) and positive self-talk (“I am excellent at giving professional presentations”). Personally, I’ve done my share of psyching myself up for an upcoming big event by conducting an inner pep-talk monologue. Works for me. At least I thought it was working, but I may have been talking to the wrong person.

It turns out that it’s not just talking to yourself that’s important, it’s who you address that matters as well. Pronouns matter. According to this Morning Edition segment on NPR , researchers from the University of Michigan discovered how one key difference in the way that people talk themselves influences their feelings of confidence.

It’s not enough to keep the content of the message positive. When you talk to yourself, you must distance yourself a bit from the message. How? Refer to yourself in the third person. (Sounds crazy, right? Keep reading.)

For example, if you want to boost your confidence when making a pitch to your boss, your first-person self-talk might sound something like, “I’m ready for this meeting. I’m confident and able to handle any tough questions that come my way.” Sound cheesy? Yeah, that’s what a lot of people think and that’s why certain self-talk phrases seem phony.

But what if you created just a smidge of emotional distance between you and the situation? For instance, how about trying, “You’ve got this, Jen. Remember the last time you pitched that big project and they loved it?” As the NPR reporter Laura Starecheski writes, subjects in the U of M research project who used the third person technique “sounded more rational, and less emotional — perhaps because they were able to get some distance from themselves.”

No longer just an affectation for megalomaniacs, referring to yourself in the third person can help you maintain perspective and not beat yourself up so much. Why not give it a try?


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