What Exactly Is Inner Speech?

Beth E Lee MBA MSc
11 min readJan 16, 2021

When I was going through therapy, ten years ago, I learned a lot of thinking tools. Those tools not only pulled me out of the depression spiral but continue to encourage and help me through life today. Many of these thinking tools require some form of inner speech, which is why I find this topic so fascinating.

Specifically, the first technique in therapy I ever learned was what I now call my “tic-tac” method. (You can read about my story and methodology here). This one method, utilising my inner voice, has had such an impact on my thinking process, that I said to myself, “how else can I harness the power of my inner voice?”

Today, it’s this question, that has sparked my intense interest to find out what exactly is our inner speech.

I started my research a couple of weeks ago and realised that there were lots of terms used to describe our inner voice. Actually, I got so wrapped up in the terms, I didn’t know if self-talk was different from inner speech? Is inner dialogue a better way to describe self-talk? Is there a difference? I found out there IS a difference.

Researchers and philosophers alike have used a number of different terms to try and explain inner speech. What we’re actually talking about is the subjective experience of conversation within ourselves. It is individual. It is our own making of meaning and interpreting. It is an experience. And often our inner speech goes undetected, humming along in the background. Bringing inner speech to the forefront of our minds can help alleviate stress and anxiety and become a tool to help enhance our mental health.

What is Inner Speech?

Inner speech is the voice inside our head, that is “directed by oneself to oneself, and is produced in one’s mind” ( Perrone-Bertolotti, M. et al., 2014). It can be referred to as one’s Inner Monologue, Inner Discourse, Internal Discourse, or Inner Voice.

Inner speech is also considered verbal thought or the silent expression of conscious thought and can be described as providing a running verbal monologue of thoughts. It is “estimated that at least one-quarter of people’s conscious waking life consists of inner speech ( Perrone-Bertolotti, M. et al., 2014). Isn’t that amazing?

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