If you ever feel nervous about presenting and/or have the tendency to ruminate, and beat yourself up with negative, inner-chatter; ‘I can’t do this, I’m going to fail, why did I do that?, new research indicates that a simple technique called ‘distanced self-talk’ may help. Instead of using the first person “I” in your internal monologue, you can use your name, the second-person generic “you,” the third-person pronouns “he, she, they,” or even a “fly on the wall” perspective. Using myself as an example, ‘How will I solve this problem?, becomes, ‘How will Helen solve this problem’ or, ‘How will you solve this problem’, or, “What’s the ‘fly on the wall’ perspective on what happened?” etc.
This idea may seem simplistic, but words are consequential to our lived experience.
“Research participants who self-distanced by using non-first-person (vs. first-person) pronouns and their own name while preparing for a speech displayed less distress and engaged in less maladaptive postevent processing.”
Small shifts in the language people use to refer to themselves during introspection can influence their capacity to regulate how they think, feel, and behave under stress, reducing rumination, broadening perspective, and changing the way people perceive and evaluate their experience.
The next time you are trying to think your way through a socially or emotionally stressful situation, talk to yourself about it in the third person, and you can experience firsthand whether the technique works for you.