Talking to yourself is a rewarding experience
Long years ago, I spent a week’s holiday with one of my office
friends in his ancestral home in the hill country. His father died when
he was young and the mother raised the three children out of the income
generated from leasing a part of their property.
It was a two-storey house and to reach upstairs, I had to pass by the
living room of my friend’s mother. Several evenings as I returned from
long strolls through the winding streets in the exceptionally beautiful
village, I sensed a presence in that darkened room, but didn’t want to
When we talk to ourselves about problems in our lives, in a
sense, we are turning the job over to the other “fellow” -
One evening the lights snapped on. My friend’s mother was just rising
from a chair. “Good evening auntie! What are you doing?” I blurted,
“sitting there in the dark every night?” She smiled and explained. “Once
a day before sitting for dinner, I have a 10-minute chat with myself.”
Her household then included an ex-Army nephew with a young wife and
resettlement problem, one Son and two beautiful teen-age daughters who
were living through at least one social crisis apiece per week. In the
centre of all these, she presided with serene grace.
I asked her to tell me more about her 10-minute chats. “Mostly, what
ifs. You know. What if I fixed up one end of the upstairs for Edddy and
Saroja, so that they have more privacy, until he gets a job and a place
of his own?
What if I paid Lokki’s tuition for her intermediate stage of
Management degree, and she work and study for her Final, while I paid
Poddi’s first semester for her IT course? Things like that. Sometimes, I
get the answers.”
Five years later, I realised that she got all the answers to bring
good things, one by one, to each person in the household - including
university degrees for both girls.
Do you also talk to yourself? If not, you are missing something quite
important. Do not think that talking to yourself is just for pre-schoolers
and wild-eyed conspiracy theorists. It is not!
For example, when we talk to ourselves about problems, in a sense, we
are turning the job over to the other “fellow” - the subconscious. On
receipt of the message, it will keep picking at the problem long after
we have left it to go back to our regular work, to dinner, even to
sleep. A fantastic computer, it keeps trying various linkages to solve
the problem, until it manages to find one that fits.
A veteran salesman once told me that most high-level salesmen talk to
themselves all day long. “We do it to drown out the other voices,” he
said. “I mean, the voices of prospects that tell us they don’t need our
product. They hammer at our confidence every day. The high-level
salesman talks his confidence up.
He tells himself that almost every sale he ever made started with a
“No.” He tells himself the answers he will make to the objections he’ll
face. And because of this conversation with himself he is talking to his
most suspicious listener, he builds his strongest case.
Today, we live in a noisy world. Yet, many people struggle with too
much silence in their lives. They are either living alone or living with
others who are engrossed in their own affairs. If you are one of them,
what would you do? “Maybe, I can always click on the TV, the radio, or
my latest digital gizmo,” you might say.
But what happens if you’re yearning for a live person to talk to? To
bounce your ideas off the chest? To appreciate your accomplishments (big
When you’re in that mood, chances are that you neglect to give enough
attention to a very special person. Someone who is always there with
you. Yourself. So, why not talk to yourself. Talking to yourself not
only relieves the loneliness, it may also make you smarter. It helps you
clarify your thoughts, realise what’s important and build any decisions
you’re contemplating. There’s just one proviso: You become smarter only
if you speak truthfully to yourself.
There is actually more than one kind of talking to yourself:
Just as it sounds, negative self-talk encompasses the harmful inner
voice that interprets situations pessimistically. Examples include:” I
was stupid last evening” “I can’t do anything right” “Nobody likes me”
“Nothing ever works out.”
For many people, negative self-talk leads to unpleasant emotions such
as sadness, depression, anxiety, anger or fear. It can also impair
motivation and impede progress toward goals.
Honest self-conversation should enable you to know how your
behaviour needs to change
It is important to identify the negative self-talk that interferes
with your functioning. What negative self-talk do you find entering your
mind throughout the day? Pay special attention to times when you are
challenged, do not meet goals, and/or feel disappointed.
This is a commonly used type of positive self-talk. Imagine a little
cheerleader in your head offering praise and encouragement to motivate
you to achieve your goals. Examples include: “You can do it!” “You’re
awesome!” “You’re going to do this excellently!”
In sports, motivational self-talk offers the most effectiveness with
power goals, such as jumping high, throwing a ball far and running fast.
Outside sports, we participate in some activities that might require
more power than precision. For instance, situations where you hesitate
to act due to fear, anxiety, or low self-confidence might require
Power goals in life might include: Walking into an anxiety-provoking
social situation: Answering the phone when you see it’s a potential
employer calling: Getting out of bed (especially if you are depressed):
Sitting down to write a blog entry after two months of not writing
Instructional self-talk is often overlooked, which is unfortunate
since it can be helpful in so many situations. As the term implies,
instructional self-talk refers to the inner voice that provides
directions for you to perform certain tasks. Some sports examples
include: “Keep your eye on the ball.” “Loosen your grip.” “Breathe.”
“Focus on your next move.”
People often overuse motivational self-talk when more instructional
statements would be most beneficial. According to sports psychologists,
athletes best meet precision goals when using instructional self-talk.
For instance, consider a man trying to improve his tennis game. If he
solely thinks “You are strong!” when playing the game, he may execute
great power on to the ball with his racket, but he may also miss certain
nuances and skills that would actually improve his tennis capabilities.
Thoughts like “loosen your grip” or “look to where you want the ball
to go” might further develop abilities requiring fine motor coordination
Some non-sport experiences may parallel precision goals as well. For
instance, a person with social anxiety may walk into a crowded room and
start a conversation with someone riding the high of a motivational
statement like “people love you,” but instructional self-talk like “make
eye contact” or “finish your sentence; don’t trail off” might best help
that person maintain composure throughout the evening.
Honest self-conversation should enable you to know how your behaviour
needs to change. And behaviour is what counts. As an old proverb says:
“To know but not to act is not to know at all.”