About eight years ago, I made a difficult decision: to end my career of public speaking. I love speaking, so it broke my heart to give it up for what I thought would be forever. It's just that writing a speech has me gritting my teeth and nursing a headache before I complete the first sentence. Being on stage was energizing, capturing a speech on paper totally drained my energy.
Thankfully, one day, while walking in the woods, I discovered the magic of talking to myself--well actually, to an imaginary audience. Writing and memorizing a speech stressed me out, but making it up out loud and capturing only the bullet points was brilliant.
Talking to oneself creates clarity, boosts creativity and productivity, and helps the brain sort things out. It is also known to motivate and inspire us. This is clearly demonstrated by athletes who cheer themselves on prior to and during a game or competition.
Really smart people talk to themselves.
A study performed at Bangor University indicated that talking to yourself out loud is not only helpful but may indicate a higher level of intelligence. Dr. Paloma Mari-Beffa, the co-author and psychologist behind the study, says that simply hearing oneself while talking out loud offers many benefits. "Auditory commands seem to be better controllers of behavior than written ones," she says. In fact, "The stereotype of the mad scientist talking to themselves, lost in their own inner world, might reflect the reality of a genius who uses all the means at their disposal to increase their brain power," she says.
It helps you make tough decisions.
Linda Sapadin, yet another psychologist who studies the benefits of talking to yourself, says it helps you make difficult decisions and substantiate important information. "It helps you clarify your thoughts, tend to what's important, and firm up any decisions you're contemplating," she says.
The act of just thinking about something, versus saying it out loud, doesn't organize your thoughts and can clutter your brain, causing confusion and overwhelm. I enjoy the benefits of using a whiteboard and talking my way through goal-setting and action plans. It makes everything feel achievable to me and creates many Aha moments. "Saying [your goals] out loud focuses your attention, reinforces the message, controls your runaway emotions and screens out distractions," says Sadapin.
One piece of cautionary advice on talking to yourself:
Talking to yourself puts things in perspective and calms the nerves, but only if you say nice things to yourself. Please avoid negative statements and drop the name-calling when you're unhappy with yourself. As powerful as talking yourself through goal-setting and problem-solving is, talking down to yourself is equally (or more) disempowering.