Think about a time when you felt nervous about an important business presentation… Remember how fast your heart was beating before you began to speak. Maybe your throat felt dry as you were giving your presentation. Both are normal stress responses from your brain’s limbic system, which can sabotage your ability to perform at the top of your game. If you can relate, here’s some great news from the Science of Influence:

New research studies from Michigan State University and University of Michigan show that if you silently talk to yourself in the third person during stressful times, it helps you get your emotions under control and you will perform better. According to researchers, this method helps you distance yourself from negative emotions and triggers the same clarity that we feel when we are advising or encouraging someone else.

How simple is it? Instead of using first-person self-talk, like “I can do this,” you just change the perspective and say to yourself, “You can do this!” Using your own name to talk to yourself works well – yes, I tried this myself when I was nervous about giving my first TEDx Talk. I had come across an earlier study from the University of Illinois that suggested talking to yourself in the third person registers in the brain the same way as encouragement from your friends and colleagues. So, in the weeks leading up to my talk, I would tell myself, “Melinda, you’ve got this!” To see how that turned out, visit http://bit.ly/2uYzwCD

I’ve shared this research with clients who were feeling anxious before major presentations, and they reported the third-person self-talk had an extremely positive calming effect. Just as in the formal scientific studies, this approach generated feelings of confidence, which enhanced performance.

Leveraging self-talk has some convenient advantages because you don’t need someone else there to do it and it doesn’t require any special technology. Another benefit: one study found that the third-person self-talk required no more brain effort than using first- person messaging. Same amount of energy, but the results are proven to be significantly better!

Just one more pointer that I share with the executives I coach: If you want to be more persuasive and have more influence, then talk to yourself in private. No matter how much research there is on self-talk, people will still think you’re a bit unbalanced if they hear you talking to yourself in the third person 🙂

For more on MSU and UM studies: http://msutoday.msu.edu/news/2017/talking-to-yourself-in-the-third-person-can-help-you-control-stressful-emotions/

For more on UI study: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/ejsp.2048/abstract