Motivating yourself needs the right words

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pushing_someone_to_the_edge_of_custom_text_13242Pretty much everyone knows about using self talk to help improve self-control. It’s become a staple of most self-improvement books and life coaches as well as sports coaches. But it turns out that the form of words you use can make a big difference.

An interesting series of experiments reported in the BPS’s Psychology magazine found that speaking to yourself in the second person i.e. “You can do it” was more effective than speaking to yourself in the first person i.e. “I can do it“.

Not only did the participants in the study who used the second person encouragement complete more problems, they also said they would be happier doing them again in future.

Why would there be this difference? The researchers speculate that when the going gets tough using the second person self-talk cues memories of being encouraged and supported by others, even back to childhood.

The experiments weren’t perfect relying on psychology students and written self-talk in relation to solving anagrams and planning to do more exercise. But it’s something to think about if you’re in the coaching business (and not too late to start encouraging your kids!).