The last time you faced a big challenge like interviewing for a job or giving a presentation, did you try to get yourself stoked with a little pep talk?
Many of us try to psych ourselves up before a performance, and now academic research shows it works for that application. . .and more: Studies show “self-talk” can be effective at getting your brain to work better in general.
On top of that, the research shows that certain self-talk techniques are more effective than others. Keep reading for the scoop. . .
According to researcher Mark Seery at the University of Buffalo, when you give yourself a pep talk, you can get the most bang for your buck by incorporating what he calls a “distanced perspective.”
What he means is you should talk to yourself as if you were another person providing advice. That outside point of view, even though it’s “pretend,” can enhance your self-induced confidence and increase the positive vibes you give off.
And his research shows that your pumped-up confidence can start by addressing yourself as “you” – saying something like, “You can do very well” rather than “I can do very well.” You can also address yourself in the third person, using your own name – “John is going to ace this interview.”
“It’s a subtle difference in language, but previous work in other areas has shown this to make a difference,” says Dr. Seery.
Feel Better about Yourself
In his study, he assigned 133 people a short speech and, before giving the talk, he told them to think about their performance either in the first or third person.
The researchers found that contemplating their speeches in the third person made people feel more comfortable, competent and less endangered by being in the spotlight – and their performance reflected that self-comfort.1
“Self-distancing may promote approaching (important tasks) with confidence and experiencing them with challenge rather than threat,” says Dr. Steery.
Other research shows that this type of self-distanced self-talk can also help improve your athletic performance. I suspect athletes do it a lot, and without being prompted by academic research.
But to prove the point, researchers at Bangor University in England tested how fast 16 cyclists could complete ten-kilometer time trials – pedaling as fast as they could to complete a 6.2 mile course. At one session, they gave themselves pep talks in the first person “I” while riding the course. At another session, they were instructed to call themselves “you.”
For 13 of the 16 bike riders, using the second person – addressing themselves with admonitions like “You can pedal harder! You can do this!” – improved their speed significantly. The researchers say this is evidence the pronouns matter when implementing self-talk to influence physical performance.”2
While You’re at It, Stand Up Straight
Want another tip for better brain performance and confidence?
Pay attention to your posture as you deliver your pep talk. Stand or sit up straight, don’t slump over.
According to a study at San Francisco State University, when your posture is sloppy and your shoulders sag, your brain performance and confidence sag, too.
In this investigation, the California researchers found that people could solve math problems more accurately if they sat up straight. Especially if they were nervous about their mathematical abilities.3
“For people who are anxious about math, posture makes a giant difference,” says researcher Erik Peper. “The slumped-over position shuts them down and their brains do not work as well. They cannot think as clearly.”
Truly amazing, the intangible things that can influence our brains.