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Resilience Skills : Self-talk, 3 tips to make yours work for you rather than against you


We all do it, some of us listen to a monologue going on and on inside our heads whilst others contribute out-loud to a dialogue only they can hear, receiving strange looks from passers-by for their trouble.

Self-talk can be positive or negative, automatic or deliberate, inspirational or dis-respectful. Is it any wonder that it can have such a huge effect on an individual when studies have shown that participants would not dream of talking to anyone else the way they talk to themselves as they would not consider any relationship strong enough to withstand such discourse?

However, sportsmen and women regularly provide excellent examples of how positive self-talk can affect your emotions, attitude and, ultimately, your performance. If you feel that your self-talk could do with an overhaul, the following 3 tips may help:

  1. Counteract your ANTS with CATS … and we’re not talking insects and animals!

    If you are asked to give a presentation with less than half a day’s notice, your initial self-talk may begin with “I can’t do it, I’ll come across as ill-prepared and then my card will be marked” (an ANT) or “They know I’ve stepped in at the last minute, I’ve got the skills and knowledge to give this a good shot and it’s a real opportunity” (a CAT). Resilient people are aware of their self-talk and learn to replace automatic negative thoughts (ANTS) with capability-affirming thoughts (CATS). If may take practice but it is possible.

  2. Drop the first person and use the third or your own name

    Research has shown that people who used “you” or their own name within their self-talk performed better under stress than those who used “I”. Using “you” or their own name also resulted in them ruminating much less after an event than those who talked to themselves in the first person. It’s believed that thinking about yourself as another person allows you to be more objective and therefore give yourself helpful feedback rather than constant criticism.

  3. Be kind to yourself

    Learn to talk to yourself as you would to a good friend and remember the words of the author Pat Cadigan:
    Don’t talk to yourself in such a way that if you did so to a friend, it would end your friendship … Be very careful how you talk to yourself. Because you are listening.


This is one of a series of articles on aspects of resilience. You can access them all from this post Resilience Skills: An A-Z of definitions of the terms used.


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