For years, we’ve been told that the secret to increasing your confidence before a big event (like giving a speech or a job interview) is through positive self-talk. You know, like looking at yourself in the mirror and saying “you got this, girl!”
But if new research is anything to go by, we may have been doing it all wrong. According to a study from the University of Buffalo, the key to an instant confidence boost is talking about yourself in the third person. Yep, just like Donald Trump, Gollum from the Lord of The Rings and that one douchey guy at every party.
According to the research published in The Journal Of Experimental Psychology, taking a distanced approach when thinking about yourself makes you more likely to see stressful situations as challenges that can be approached with confidence and positivity.
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The researchers gave 133 participants a stress-inducing speaking task, and asked them to approach it with either distancing self-talk ie. ‘Emma is speaking’ vs immersing self-talk, ‘I am speaking.’ By measuring physiological responses like how fast and hard their hearts were beating, and how dilated or constricted their blood vessels were, they were able to conclude that the first group were far less stressed.
In the past, there’s been evidence to suggest that speaking to yourself in third person reduces stress, but scientists always assumed this was because it made them care less about what you’re experiencing. However, the study’s lead author, psychology professor Mark Seery, argues that this is not the case.
We found that self-distancing did not lead to lower task engagement, which means there was no evidence that [study participants] cared less about giving a good speech. Instead, self-distancing led to greater challenge than self-immersion, which suggests people felt more confident after self-distancing.
Being a fly on the wall might be the way to put our best foot forward. And one way to do that is by not using first-person pronouns like ‘I’. For me, it’s saying to myself, ‘Mark is thinking this’ or ‘Here is what Mark is feeling’ rather than ‘I am thinking this’ or ‘Here is what I’m feeling.
-Professor Mark Seery via Buffalo University
So, next time you need to conquer your nerves before interviewing for that dream job, why not try combining this unusual technique with power posing? Hint: you may want to find somewhere private to do it, so as to not look like a weirdo!