“Keys. Keys,” you mumble while trying to remember where the heck your car keys are.
Suddenly, you spot them.
Is it possible that talking aloud about the keys helped you to find them? Or when you're mentally working through different scenarios, going through them out loud can help you focus.
Recently experts have been learning more about "self-talk" and how people use it to their advantage. The good news? Our running monologues are absolutely normal.
“When I think about self-talk, it can be done silently or out loud. We all have silent conversations with ourselves and some times those conversations end up spilling out and happening out loud,” says Ethan Kross, director of the Emotion and Self-Control Lab at the University of Michigan.
Even better, our soliloquies prove useful. For example. when it comes to looking for something, saying the word out loud makes the thing easier to find, says Gary Lupyan, assistant professor of psychology at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.
Saying what you're looking for out loud "helps you keep the visual representation of the object in mind better,” says Lupyan, who wrote a paper on the topic. “The name helps you…visualize the object, enabling you to actually see it better.”
Talking aloud also helps people solve problems. Chatting to yourself about how you’ll answer interview questions for that dream job, or how you’ll handle that serious talk with your boyfriend, prepares you for the actual experience.
“Self-talk allows you to run through alternative scenarios and prepare alternative reactions and strategies,” says Frank Ghinassi, vice president and director of the Department of Psychology at UPMC's Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic.
Say my name
In his own research, Kross looked at the differences when people talked to themselves in the first-, second-, or third-person — in other words, whether they used an "I" pronoun, a "you" pronoun, or used their own name.
Self-talk is especially effective when people refer to themselves by name, Kross found.
“When people use their own name, that provides them with the psychological space and helps them think more constructively,” says Kross.
Talking to yourself or calling yourself by name makes does not make you a weirdo.
In fact, you’re in good company. Kross notes that many celebrities refer to themselves by name, including LeBron James, Kanye West, Donald Trump, Jennifer Lawrence, Bernie Sanders, and Malala Yousafzai.
“What’s interesting to me is not who the person is who is doing it,” Kross says. “But that so many people are doing this and it suggests that this is a real phenomenon.”
But what about self-affirmations, such as Stuart Smalley’s “I’m good enough, smart enough, and doggone it, people like me” variety? Do they actually work?
Yes, says psychologist Ann Kearney-Cooke. of the Cincinnati Psychotherapy Institute. She tells patients to turn negative chatter into positive self-talk.
“The way you talk to yourself affects how you feel and how you behave,” says Kearney-Cooke.
People who chide themselves for mistakes feel worse about themselves. But those who engage in positive self-talk feel and act confidently.
Take celebrities who self-talk. Some insist they’re the best at something (we’re looking at you, Kanye).
Kearney-Cooke believes this helps them cope with criticism because they’re reminding themselves they’re talented.
“Positive self-talk can be beneficial,” she says. “When you are doing it over and over and over again it can rewire the brain.”