Pronouns Can Build Confidence in Stressful Situations

Self-distancing language can help us ‘see’ ourselves through someone else’s eyes.


While preparing for a presentation or a job interview, people often engage in self-talk, an internal dialogue meant to moderate anxiety. This is more common reflection before any stressful event.

According to a new study by Mark Seery at build confidence and positive response to upcoming stressors.

Seery said, “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.”

Almost everyone engages themselves in self-talk while preparing for difficult conditions. While doing this, it is also essential to understand that not all self-talk is equally effective when contemplating future performance.

Scientists involved 133 participants in the study. They then ask them to deliver the 2-minute speech on why they were a good fit for their dream job. The participants were to think about their presentation either with first-person or third-person pronouns.

When participants were giving their speeches, scientists measured a spectrum of physiological responses. Through this, they were able to measure whether the speech is important to the presenter and the presenter’s level of confidence.

Many previous studies suggested that inducing self-distancing can lead to less negative responses to stressful things. It might because self-distancing has reduced the importance of the event.

Seery said, “That seems positive on the face of it. But in long-term, it could have negative implications because people might not be giving their best effort. We found that self-distancing did not lead to lower task engagement.”

“Meanwhile, there was no evidence that they cared less about giving a good speech. Instead, self-distancing led to the greater challenge than self-immersion, which suggests people felt more confident after self-distancing.”


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