In The Wall Street Journal, Elizabeth Bernstein looks to years of research to explain why being productive comes down to how you talk to yourself. Bernstein writes:

Research found people who spoke to themselves as another person would—using their own name or the pronoun “you”—performed better under stress than people who used the word “I.”

When people think of themselves as another person, “it allows them to give themselves objective, helpful feedback,” says Ethan Kross, associate professor of psychology and director of the Self-Control and Emotion Laboratory at the University of Michigan.

With critical self-talk, identify why you are being negative and focus on making it better. Don’t say: “I bombed that presentation.” Say: “That wasn’t your best effort. You need to buckle down now and try harder.”

When you talk to yourself, you have two basics ways of doing it: as a critic with nothing beneficial to say, or as a familiar friend offering points of advice on how to improve. One method proactively helps you improve while the other can only tear you down and hinder your success as a creative.

It’s worth noticing how you tend to talk to yourself at any given moment, particularly when it comes to a big moment or failed project. Whenever you find yourself being overly critical and unhelpful to yourself, tweaking your approach will be more advantageous and leave you feeling empowered rather than deflated.

As Bernstein explains:

Tell it like it is. It’s OK to talk to yourself, with honest feedback and encouragement.

Read the full research behind critical self-talk right here.

Related: What Motivates Us To Do Great Work?

  • Mike Saporito

    Wow – very interesting: “You” vs. “I” orientation in this process seems to make a big difference. Thanks for sharing.

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