Positive Self-Talk with a Twist
Who doesn’t know that it’s better to speak positively than negatively to yourself as a foundation for transformation? Hopefully all of you. Now here’s a new twist: when speaking to yourself, replacing the word “I” with “you” or your own name.
Studying “the pronouns people use when they talk to themselves silently, inside their minds,” University of Michigan psychologist Ethan Kross concludes that “a subtle linguistic shift—shifting from 'I' to your own name—can have really powerful self-regulatory effects.” (“Why saying is believing—the science of self-talk” by Laura Starecheski, 10/7/14,3:16am/ET, Shots, Health News from NPR), According to Kross’s research, this shift can change how we feel and behave.
He cites basketball star LeBron James, speaking about himself by using his own name when discussing his 2010 decision to switch teams: "I wanted to do what was best for LeBron James," said the athlete, "and what LeBron James was going to do to make him happy." Kross maintains that using our own names provides distance from ourselves and did some experiments to understand this technique. He asked volunteers to give a speech with only five minutes of prep time. Some volunteers were told to use the word “I” when they spoke to themselves and others to use “you” or their own names
His results: “people who used ‘I’ had a mental monologue that sounded something like, 'Oh, my god, how am I going do this? I can't prepare a speech in five minutes without notes. It takes days for me to prepare a speech!' People who used their own names, on the other hand, were more likely to give themselves support and advice, saying things like, ‘Ethan, you can do this. You've given a ton of speeches before.’ The latter group seemed to have more distance from themselves and sounded more objective.
"We've done studies that look at exactly that phenomenon," says Kross. It's almost like you are duping yourself into thinking about you as though you were another person. Being an ‘outsider’ in this way has real benefits.” And here’s where this stuff really gets interesting. Kross says this shift works because we are often nicer to other people than we are to ourselves. We say horrid things to ourselves that we wouldn’t ever think about saying to another person, never mind actually speaking the words. Changing how you talk to yourself—replacing “I” with your name or you—is a little trick you can play on yourself that will help you say nice, kind, supportive, uplifting, positive things to yourself. And that will help you to eat more “normally” and be emotionally healthier.