How to Talk to Yourself

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Photo: Dana Edelson/NBC/Getty Images

There’s an intelligent way to talk to yourself, and it does not, unfortunately, involve the phrase, Doggone it, people like me! New research suggests that speaking to yourself in the second-person (“You can do it !”) might be more motivating than the first-person (“I can do it!”). 

The research, which psychologist Christian Jarrett summarized nicely this week, found that people who used the word you when talking to themselves were able to fly through more anagram puzzles assigned by the researchers, and this strategy also seemed to increase people’s intention to exercise in the coming week (though it’s not clear whether they actually followed through on that).

Speaking to yourself as if you’re a separate person may work because it reminds you of receiving support from others, the researchers speculate. It’s easy to ignore yourself, but it’s harder to tune out words of encouragement from another person. Even if that “other person” is actually just you.