How to Psych Yourself Up with Good Self-Talk

Become more effective and productive (and simply happier) by turning your self-talk into other-talk, transforming "I can do this" into "YOU can do this."

Stever Robbins
Episode #499

Use Third-Party Pronouns

There’s another step, however. It turns out that all throughout time, there have been teenagers and junior proms. Some of those teenagers were so traumatized by their junior proms that they grew up to become research psychologists, determined to make sure no one was ever damaged by the high school social scene ever again.

A couple of them have been studying self-talk and published an article in the American Psychological Association’s Psychnet journal called Self-talk as a regulatory mechanism: How you do it matters.

They discovered something really surprising: if you want to regulate your emotions, it’s better to talk in the second or third person. Rather than thinking “I’m going to bake the best strawberry upside-down cake ever,” think “You’re going to bake the best strawberry upside-down cake ever,” as if you were someone else, and you were talking to you.

It's better to talk to yourself in the 2nd or 3rd person.

Third-person also works. Rather than saying “I am attractive, smart, sensitive, and glow in the dark,” Thomas will get even better results saying “Thomas, you’re attractive, smart, sensitive, and glow in the dark.”

Use the Right Voices

Because scientists are awesome, and so am I, I’ll add my own twist to this. Some people have told me their self-talk isn’t in their own voice. Instead, they hear the voice of their parents, or their boss, or their shmoopie. In my case, most of my own low-self-esteem self-talk was in the voice of a kid who used to tease me…in sixth grade. These things have power!

When you’re teaching yourself better self-talk, put the self-talk in your own voice, or the voice of someone you respect and believe has your best intentions at heart.

This part is easy for Thomas. Being a cybernetic kid, he’s always had great respect for the household refrigerator. So he prepares himself. “Thomas, you are attractive, smart, sensitive, and glow in the dark!” He repeats it several times, in his own voice, and also in the voice of the Frigidaire Deep Freeze. Then he picks up his phone, dials the number, and when his intended prom date answers, he confidently pops the question. I don’t know what answer he got, but he zipped downstairs, glowing from ear to ear. 

When psyching yourself up, do it so it’s most effective. Say good things, rather than rehashing your insecurities. Use second- or third-person phrasing, and use the voice tone of someone who has your best interests at heart. Preferably, you!

I’m Stever Robbins. Follow GetItDoneGuy on Twitter and Facebook. I run accountability programs to help self-employed and small business people make intense progress on projects and routines things that drop through the cracks or take forever to finish. Find information at http://www.SteverRobbins.com . You’ll also get a free copy of my secret book chapter on how to build relationships that help you succeed. 

Image © Shutterstock


About the Author

Stever Robbins

Stever Robbins is a graduate of W. Edward Deming’s Total Quality Management training program and a Certified Master Trainer Elite of NLP. He holds an MBA from the Harvard Business School and a BS in Computer Sciences from MIT. 

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