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How to Use Self Talk to Increase Productivity


Remember that character from Seinfeld who spoke of himself in the third person? “Jimmy likes Elaine.” “Jimmy thinks the opera is great.” And so on. It turns out that Jimmy was on to something we can all use to reduce stress and improve motivation and, therefore, productivity.

(Photo Credit: Alan Light/Flickr)

There is one in every office. The person muttering at her desk, then you realize she is not on the phone. The person who is always talking to somebody else, but nobody is there. You hear Nancy say, “Nancy, you can do better than this.”

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Self Talk

This behavior is called “self talk.” Some self talk is more helpful than others. Some people think out loud or talk to themselves in the first person, e.g. “I am not sure how to handle this situation.” It turns out, to enjoy the full benefits of self talk you should speak in the second or third person.

Psychological Distancing

Guy Winch, Ph.D. writing for Psychology Today explains that using second or third person pronouns creates psychological distance from a stressful situation. He writes, “Creating psychological distance from an anxiety-producing or stressful event allows us to manage our anxiety and distressing feelings more efficiently and to reduce the detrimental impact of such feelings on our behavior.”

What This Means For You

When you are stressed at work, you may use self talk to calm your nerves and focus better on the tasks at hand. For example, let’s say you are nervous about a big presentation. Your boss is counting on you to convince a potential client to hire your company. That may feel like a lot of pressure.

Try telling yourself, “You can do this. You thoroughly researched this potential client, and you put together a carefully-constructed presentation.”

Or use your name in your self talk. “Jimmy knows what he is doing. Jimmy has done this before. The boss chose Jimmy because the boss has so much faith and confidence in Jimmy’s abilities. Jimmy is going to catch this client.”

And if you are a Seinfeld fan, you may remember that Jimmy did get that date with Elaine.

Tell Us What You Think

Do you use self talk? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.

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