Do you talk to yourself a lot? And I don’t mean only in the privacy of your own home. I talk to myself while I’m walking down the street, when I’m in my office or when I’m shopping. Thinking out loud helps me materialize what I’m thinking about. It helps me make sense of things.
It also makes me look insane. Crazy people talk to themselves, right? They’re conversing with the voices inside their heads. If you’re yammering on to nobody, everyone thinks you’re a mental patient.
This is wrong. Talking to yourself, it turns out, is actually a sign of genius.
In one study, psychologists Daniel Swigley and Gary Lupyan hypothesized that talking to yourself was actually beneficial.
And if you think about it, it’s obviously true. The smartest people on earth talk to themselves. Look at the inner monologues of the greatest thinkers. Look at poetry! Look at history! Albert Einstein apparently “used to repeat his sentences to himself softly.”
Talking to yourself makes your brain work more efficiently
In one experiment, Swigley and Lupya gave 20 people the name of an object (like a loaf of bread or an apple), which they were told to find in the supermarket. During the first set of trials, the participants were bound to silence. In the second set, they repeated the object’s name out loud as they looked for it in the store.
Test subjects found the object with greater ease when they spoke to themselves while searching. Saying things out loud sparks memory. It solidifies the end game and makes it tangible. But talking out loud to yourself helps you only when you know what you need. In this case, speaking the object’s name out loud is helpful only when you’re familiar with its appearance.
According to Lupyan: “Speaking to yourself isn’t always helpful — if you don’t really know what an object looks like, saying its name can have no effect or actually slow you down. If, on the other hand, you know that bananas are yellow and have a particular shape, by saying banana, you’re activating these visual properties in the brain to help you find them.”
Talking to yourself helps you organize your thoughts
What helps me the most when I talk to myself is that I’m able to organize the countless wild thoughts running rampant through my brain. Hearing my issues vocalized calms my nerves. I’m being my own therapist: Outer-voice me is helping inner-brain me through my problems.
According to psychologist Linda Sapadin, talking out loud to yourself helps you validate important and difficult decisions. “It helps you clarify your thoughts, tend to what’s important and firm up any decisions you’re contemplating.”
Everyone knows the best way to solve a problem is to talk it out. Since it’s your problem, why not do it with yourself?
Talking to yourself helps you achieve your goals
Making a list of goals and setting out to achieve them can be hard to do. It can be overwhelming. Talking yourself through those goals is a much steadier way to achieve them. If you walk yourself through the process, each step will seem less difficult and more concise. Things will suddenly seem doable, and you’ll be less apprehensive about diving into the problem.
As Sapadin puts it, “Saying [your goals] out loud focuses your attention, reinforces the message, controls your runaway emotions and screens out distractions.” It puts things in perspective and grounds you.
Talking to yourself means that you are self-reliant. Like Albert Einstein, who “was highly gifted and acquired early in his life the ability to exploit his talents,” people who talk to themselves are highly proficient and count on only themselves to figure out what they need.
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