The voice inside your head… the one that tells you not to have the cookie… to listen more intently to your spouse… or to leave now or you’ll be late? According to the article, The Voice of Reason inner talk is one of the most effective, least-utilized tools available to master the psyche and foster life success. Importantly, the way you talk to yourself can drastically impact the quality of your life.
Self-talk is a conditioned behavior that begins in younger years as a verbal, out loud instruction manual describing activities and tasks. This instruction manual eventually strays from verbal cues to become an internal, silent, intimate guide to direct us through life. The internal voice guides us, just as effectively as it protects us from harm. Just as fear or anxiety keep us safe by alerting us to danger, our inner voice can also aid our abilities to take risks, maintain relationships, elevate thinking, enhance a skill, or back off of a situation that causes discomfort. Our inner voices shape who we are and how our future takes shape.
Behavioral researchers discovered the more children self-talk during make-believe play, the more likely they are to carry such a strategy into adulthood, setting the stage for a lifetime of focused attention, organization, and self-regulation.
The life-impacting behavior that differentiates between value or deficit of the inner voice is how you talk to yourself.
When encouraging yourself through a task, gearing up for a task, taking time to listen to your intuition, or convincing yourself you are not afraid: evaluate what those monologues actually communicate. Does it end with a question mark? Is it encouraging and positive? For example, does it sound like: Where is the end/almost done, it will be over soon? Or:
You set this goal, Sydney… you can do this!
The goal is obviously the latter. Research finds that using your first-name in self-talk shifts focus away from the self; it allows people to transcend into their inherent egocentrism. Multiple studies indicate that first-name self-talk dramatically reduces anxiety levels of participants as compared to anxiety levels using pronouns. Another study found that participants who use first-name self-talk performed better when giving a speech and engaged in less post-speech rumination. This demonstrates similar behaviors when we give advice to friends, yet have a hard time following that same advice. The detachment created by the first-name self-talk allows us to become an observer in our own behavior.
The following scenario illustrates a first date demonstrating how the choices of language used in self-talk can reduce anxiety, enhance planning, and prevent post-event rumination.
“Jennifer (1), what are you nervous about? It’s not the first date you’ve ever been on. I know you like this guy, but take it slow (2), and stay calm. Even if it doesn’t go perfectly, it won’t be the end of the world. You’re capable (3), intelligent, accomplished, beautiful. Just do your best and let the chips fall. Chill, Jen.”
1. Jennifer distances her self from the stress of a first date by addressing herself by name, seeing herself as she would a friend. The distance confers wisdom, confidence, and calm she would never have if immersed in the situation as I or me.
2. She also taps the kinds of strategies children use when engaging in activities like building blocks, only instead of instructing herself to put the small square on top of the big rectangle, she now tells herself to be calm. Her self-direction is precise.
3. Not least, Jennifer alleviates the gravity of the situation with a few self-affirmations, allowing her to see the date in the context of her whole being. She will not be devastated or ruminate endlessly on the experience if the date doesn’t work out.
Be positive, encouraging, and use your first name during your inner monologue to power through your next arduous task!