The next time you are getting psyched up before a big speech or meeting, tell yourself “You can do it” not “I can do it”. A new study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology shows that using “you” or your name is a far more effective tool when talking to yourself than first-person pronouns.
Ethan Kross of the University of Michigan led a team that checked stress levels and performance of people trying to make a good first impression and those about to give a public speech. To quell anxiety, some were told to talk to themselves in the first-person before their act and others were told to use second-person pronouns or their own names.
Compared with the first-person group, the non-first-person group performed better according to objective raters in both studies.
These findings demonstrate that small shifts in the language people use to refer to the self during introspection consequentially influence their ability to regulate their thoughts, feelings, and behaviour under social stress, even for vulnerable individuals.
The studies also found that non-first-person users felt lesser shame or self-doubt after the action.
Self-talk as a regulatory mechanism: How you do it matters [American Psychological Association via Harvard Business Review]