Talking to Yourself Can Be Helpful

Sometimes I talk to myself. Like yesterday when I came out of the grocery store. An older woman was loading her groceries into her trunk and had left her empty shopping cart directly behind my car. As I approached my vehicle, I expected her to move the cart; but instead, she got into her car and prepared to drive away — leaving the cart behind my car for me to either move or back over and squash. 

My initial reaction was to knock on her window and ask her why she would so inconsiderately abandon her cart. Or maybe inquire sweetly (with only a hint of sarcasm) if she was finished with the cart (with the implied message, “Show a little courtesy and put it back”). Or even give her an out and ask her if she knew whose cart it was. But instead, I launched into a Smeagol/Gollom-like conversation with myself that went something like this:

Me: Really?  I can’t believe she’s really going to leave the cart there.

Myself: Yes, you can. This is New York. Obnoxious people abound.

Me: Okay, but I’m going to set her straight.

Myself: Well, maybe she’s really old and infirm, and doesn’t have the energy to return the cart.

Me: She got the cart to her car, didn’t she?

Myself: Yes, she did. But what good will it do to tell her off? Besides, she’s probably been doing this sort of thing her entire life. It’s too late to change her now.

Me: It will make me feel better.

Myself: Why don’t you just suck it up and return the cart to the grocery store sidewalk? Maybe she’ll see you doing it and feel bad about leaving the cart behind our car.

Me: Right, like that’s going to happen.

Myself: Well, it’s not about how she feels, is it? It’s about us feeling good about us.  Besides, we should be grateful that we are strong and able-bodied enough to be able to take the cart back.

Me: Alright. I suppose I can get some modicum of satisfaction out of that.

And I took the cart back, forcing myself to smile at Abandoned-Cart Lady all the while. Now granted, the conversation above took place mostly in my head, lest passersby think I’m muttering to myself in some insane fashion. But it was a productive discussion.

Why do people talk to themselves? I don’t know about others, but here is why I do it and how it helps me:

  • As with events like Abandoned-Cart Lady, it gave me the opportunity to reflect on a situation before I acted rashly or said something reactionary that I might regret. I quickly found a better course of action allowing me maintain my self-appointed title of Nice Person.
  • It helps me focus. Verbalizing problems or tasks helps me concentrate and hone in on elements that need my attention. This is especially useful when I’m following specific action steps to troubleshoot some sort of technology-based problem, like why do I keep getting two copies of every email that hits my Inbox? Or what happened to the text formatting on my website?
  • It can relieve stress. Talking through a problem can be therapeutic, even if you’re just having the conversation with yourself — and you’ll always have a good listener on the other side.
  • It provides a little pep talk. On dreary Mondays, I sometimes have to talk myself out of bed reminding myself that great opportunities await, but I have to first get out of bed to greet them.

Sometimes when folks talk to themselves, the conversations are not positive. People berate themselves: “I can’t believe I just said that,” “I’ll never achieve my dreams,” or “Nothing good ever happens to me.”  Those self-conversations can be just as damaging as if someone else said those words to you.  In fact, they are more harmful because you are internalizing and buying into that rubbish.

If you’re going to talk to yourself, be sure to have positive conversations. Here are some intrapersonal conversation starters:

  • Be grateful for what you have for there are always those who have less
  • Appreciate the world around you; it is a gift
  • Notice even the little things – they can be rewarding and helpful

If you’re embarrassed about being a self-talker, just make a point to wear a bluetooth headset. Others will think you’re on your cellphone.

Someone once told me that people who talk to themselves tend to be of above-average intelligence – or maybe that was just me talking to myself!

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  1. Barbara says:

    LOL.. love this one and actually believe in it too. I do the bad self-talk sometimes – but if done right – it can also be very reinforcing for good. Like self-hypnosis – if you say I can often enough – you can! If you say you can’t then you have given up before you start.

  2. Pat Chang says:

    Courtesy is regional. In California people wouldn’t think of leaving the cart behind your car. It’s too visible. On the west coast they leave it in the small space between your car and theirs, or better yet, in the available parking space beside them. That way when you happily see a space and pull in, you need to stop short and remove the cart so that you can pull in, or have your passenger remove the cart!

    Forget the bluetooth, you’re right about intelligence and self talk. If someone asks you why you are talking to yourself, your reply is that you only talk to intelligent people!

  3. dkillo says:

    Pat, I love that come back. I’ll definitely remember it! Thank you.

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