The tagline borrowed from Charles Fernyhough in the article: The Voice Of Reason, by Pamela Weintraub, Psychology Today, May/June 2015, reads—“Inner talk is one of the most effective, least-utilized tools available to master the psyche and foster life success.”
Going back into our childhood, this incessant self-talk of toddlers is a kind of instructional manual, it’s the way a child works his way through challenges beyond his reach talking himself through the task. Then, as he learns the task, self-talk is still going on, but becomes internalized, silent. A child psychologist, Laura Berk at the University of Southern Illinois, has spent decades studying the teacher or caregiver using a step-by-step language for mastering a task, “You can do it…try again,” a child running into trouble will guide themselves step-by-step through the challenge. By contrast, an impatient, abrupt teacher responding in the same situation, “Idiot, you are hopeless,” might expose the child to frustration and becoming confused he gets mad at himself. Planning, organizing and flexibly thinking are all skills that encourage academic success.
The more that children self-talk during play, Berk has discovered, the more likely they will continue to do it in adulthood. “Children who talk to imaginary friends engage in more self-talk as adults, and that makes them more self-controlled.”
It’s so easy for us to advise our friends. We actually do a good job of it. Why are we so smart in telling others what to do and not ourselves? It’s because we distance ourselves and become a detached observer. If we just apply psychological distance to ourselves, we can gain control over our choices.
But there is one important fact. When talking to ourselves, we must do it correctly. According to Ethan Kross, in his studies of self-talk conducted at the University of Michigan, “found that used correctly, inner language can focus thinking, enhance planning and prevent the poison of later rumination.” He found that how people conduct their inner monologues has an enormous effect on their success in life. And the difference is amazingly very simple. When you talk to yourself with the pronoun, “I”, you are likely to preform poorly. But, address yourself by your “name”, your chances of success jumps sky high.
Why does this work? “Gaining psychological distance, that is moving further from our sense of self and all its emotional intensity, enables self-control, allowing us to think clearly, perform competently. We gain perspective, focus deeply and can plan better.
Remember to use your name when talking to your self—“Nola, you can do it!” Using my name empowers me.