Happiness and Self-Talk

“I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it, people like me.” – Stuart Smalley, Saturday Night Live

Though he’s quick to admit he’s not a licensed therapist, Al Franken’s character Stuart Smalley was onto an important psychological skill with this positive self-talk business. How we talk to ourselves really affects how we feel. But did you know that how we refer to ourselves is important too? Though Stuart tended to cheerlead and shame himself in the first person, a recent study suggests that using the pronoun “I” increases negative self-talk, while using second-person language (“you” or your name, as if you were talking to a friend) increases objectivity and gentleness. This is important because language is something we can change with rather little effort. That subtle linguistic shift from “I” to “you” can be the difference between making a regrettable emotion-based decision while in a place of deep shame, and feeling adequate enough to consider things in a rational light and make a healthy and effective choice. So it’s a good, simple skill to use when trying to make a hard decision (just ask LeBron James). Plus, we don’t want to spend our precious time in life in shame and telling ourselves we’re not good enough.

In the words of Stuart Smalley, “That’s just stinkin’ thinkin’.”