The power of illeism – effortless yet effective
It’s not often you benefit from something without a financial or emotional cost in this world but illeism may, perhaps, be one such exception.
Illeism – from the Latin ‘ille’ meaning he, that. The act of referring to yourself in the third rather than the first person.
It’s not a new trait, famous illeists from the past include Julius Caesar and Salvador Dali. We often hear or have heard prominent figures from the sporting and political worlds talking or writing about themselves in the third person or using their own name to describe their thoughts or actions.
It may initially feel egotistical, but research has shown that it can in fact help us to take a more distanced perspective. This not only allows us to be objective about our own behaviour/performance but also to overcome our biases and see things more clearly from the other’s viewpoint. For example, when our mind re-visits a discussion or disagreement we had earlier with a partner or colleague. It has been seen to promote a healthier attitude, improve decision making, allow us to perform better, as well as to be less critical of ourselves afterwards.
For those sceptical about emulating a figure they’d rather not be compared to, there has apparently been no research carried out to date to discover whether high profile users of illeism are doing it for egotistical reasons or to determine psychological distance from stressful situations. Our tip is to use it in your self-talk for the latter, we aren’t prescribing how to conduct media interviews!
The stress tip
The next time you find yourself ruminating over something that happened earlier in the day or need to motivate yourself to finish a physical or mental task, step back (metaphorically) and use a third person pronoun or your own name. It should provide you with kinder self-talk and may produce the explanation or result you were looking for.
Some articles and examples of using illeism
- A new trial of an ancient rhetoric trick finds it can make you wiser
- Silent third person self-talk facilitates emotion regulation
- The benefits of talking about yourself in the third person