YOU can do it! Boost Your Behaviour with 2nd Person Self-Talk

Beth E Lee MBA MSc
3 min readDec 17, 2020
Image Credit: joshua-earle — 87JyMb9ZfU-unsplash

“Keep going — you can do it!”

“You’ve done this before — c’mon, you can do it again.”

And the popular, “You got this!”

These are example phrases we may say to ourselves when we are taking an exam, speaking at a conference, or working out at the gym. Or anytime we’re faced with a challenge.

For ninety-six percent of adults, using self-talk — our inner dialogue, helps to boost motivation, push through a difficult situation and/or stay focused.

So, how does using YOU help?

Studies have shown that 2nd person self-talk influences our behvaiour and our intentions. (Albarracín, 2010, October; Albarracín, 2011, January; Senay, Albarracin, & Noguchi, 2010).

By using the word YOU, when engaging in self-talk, it helps our mind to view a situation differently. This in turn influences how we respond.

It also influences our attitude toward a task or goal. And it can go both ways, influencing negatively and positively.

The reason why 2nd person self-talk is so powerful is because it helps with self-regulation. Meaning, it levels out our mind so we can think clearly and approach a situation from a different point of view.

Let’s look at how this works.

  1. Using “YOU” when engaging in self-talk, changes your personal perspective of the situation.

If we take the phrase, “you’ve done this before, you can do it again” it allows the mind to take emotion out of the situation and give you a perspective that’s positive and possible. It’s a form of “opportunity oriented reappraisal” (Kross et al., 2014),. And this can be practiced to become a strategy your mind mentor can use.

2. Second person self-talk can also help provide social support, when there’s none around.

For example, let’s say you have to speak at conference and a partner or friend said, “oh c’mon, you can do it”. By replaying this conversation in your head, you are tapping into previous social support without engaging with the person who gave you the advice or boost. This replaying of the positive scenario generates more positive thoughts, providing support…

Beth E Lee MBA MSc

Psych skills and discussions to develop an intentional mind.