Admit it: you've been caught muttering to yourself under your breath in very public places. Maybe you've gotten stares while wandering the grocery store talking to yourself out loud. If you're like me, you might even talk yourself through various tasks, giving the atmosphere a little background noise.
Whether chatting with yourself garners stares from strangers or you do it only when alone, the cognitive benefits far outweigh any weird glances in your direction.
Talking to yourself can actually help you accomplish tasks faster. Dr. Gary Lupyan, a cognitive psychologist, ran an experiment where he asked people to find objects. Half of the participants were asked to talk to themselves, repeating the name of the item they were searching for out loud, while the rest were instructed to be quiet. Those who talked to themselves completed the task faster, finding their items about 50 to 100 milliseconds quicker than those who stayed silent.
If you want to speed up your own brain, try repeating what it is that you need to find or accomplish. Though Dr. Lupyan's research proved most helpful when searching for objects, verbally identifying items or tasks might have benefits as well.
Kids are pretty chatty—and they aren't embarrassed to be seen talking to themselves. Though we might brush their behavior off as funny, we can actually learn a thing or two from them.
In a study conducted by Athanasios Kolovelonis of Greece's University of Thessaly, researchers discovered that children who talk themselves through tasks are more focused and better able to adjust their behaviors as needed for the job at hand. Kids who announced each step of activities such as shoe-tying or dart-throwing out loud performed better than their quiet counterparts. By verbally announcing the next step, the kids honed in on what the task required, and set a goal for themselves.
Try giving yourself verbal directions the next time you need to carry out a tricky project. These spoken statements will help you determine what your next move should be, and what behavior you should enact to achieve completion.
Go ahead, tell yourself that you deserve a promotion at work—saying it out loud might be enough to push you towards achieving it.
Dr. Sanda Dolcos, a psychologist at the University of Illinois, recently conducted a study that found encouraging ourselves aloud increases our chances of succeeding. Students who were asked to say positive, encouraging words audibly while working to complete anagrams were overall more successful at mastering the task. They also felt more positivity towards the assignment than those who gave themselves no advice at all.
It's not enough to simply encourage ourselves audibly, though; the pronouns we choose when speaking can increase our ability to succeed even more.
Dolcos' research indicates that talking to ourselves in second person has greater benefit than first-person pronouns. Talking to yourself with phrases such as "You'll do great today" offer us greater encouragement because it's familiar; second person reminds us of others who've believed in us, like our families and friends. In turn, we get the ego boost we need to act with confidence when we hear "you." Rather than viewing situations as stressful or scary, we start to look at them from that removed, second-person perspective and grow our confidence.
Need to calm your nerves before an important presentation or meeting? Give yourself a quick talk—out loud, of course—and you'll perform better.
In a series of self-talk studies conducted by University of Michigan researchers, conversing with yourself before facing a stressful event can help you relax. The study put participants on the spot, asking them to deliver a 5-minute, videotaped speech before a panel of interviewers—and they had just minutes to prepare. As they awaited their turn before the interviewers, the participants were asked to talk to themselves about their feelings.
Much like the aforementioned research by Dr. Dolcos proved, the University of Michigan group's findings indicate that our choice of pronouns makes a difference when using self-talk to build confidence. Using second- or third-person phrases reduced participants' stress more both before and after the event than those who relied on first-person.
This simple change in the way we talk to ourselves helps create psychological distance from the event at hand, allowing us to manage our nerve-riddled emotions better. So, swap "I'm feeling nervous" for "You're feeling nervous" the next time you're a bundle of nerves and you'll increase your chances of acing the task.
The next time you're caught whispering to yourself, don't let embarrassment stop you—keep talking yourself up. Whether you're trying to get tasks completed faster, or improve your accuracy and performance, self-talk offers a boost that you can't always get when talking with another person. Go ahead, let others stare. With all that confidence you've gained, you won't even notice.
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