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Want To Make Better Decisions? Refer To Yourself In The Third Person

Want To Make Better Decisions? Refer To Yourself In The Third Person

In 2010, LeBron James was faced with a tough decision. Should he continue playing for the Cleveland Cavaliers, the hometown team who nurtured his career?  Or should he sign on with the Miami Heat, a larger market team, even though such a move might be considered a betrayal?

His announcement that he was going to make the move to Miami was broadcast on TV to 13.1 million viewers. His decision was met with much criticism as the owner of the Cavaliers used words said James’ decision was a “cowardly betrayal.”

When asked about his controversial decision, James said, “I wanted to do what’s best for LeBron James and to do what makes LeBron James happy.”

His reference to himself in the third person sparked much speculation on social media. Some people suspected he’d lost all touch with reality. Others thought it might have been a publicity stunt.

But, in reality, LeBron was doing exactly what psychotherapists might suggest someone in his shoes do—distance himself from the decision so he didn’t make a choice based solely on emotion. And referring to himself in the third person was a great way to do that.

Why Referring To Yourself In Third Person Helps

The conversations you have with yourself affect how you feel. Your inner dialogue can fuel strong emotions like anxiety and anger. And when your emotions are running high, your judgment becomes clouded.

When you’re feeling nervous, you’re more likely to think of all the reasons your plan won’t work. Dwelling on the negative could lead you to play it safe.

On the flipside, when you’re excited about an opportunity, you might think about the potential rewards without putting much thought into the risks. And that might cause you to take unwise risks (this is why some people fall prey to get-rich-quick schemes).

To make the best decisions, you have to balance your emotions with logic. And researchers have discovered that referring to yourself in the third person is one of the most effective ways to do that.

A 2014 study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that when people refer to themselves in the third person they perceive a problem as a challenge, rather than a threat. In a series of experiments, people who used third person language experienced less distress and they were better able to regulate their thoughts, feelings and behavior in stressful circumstances.

Develop A Productive Inner Monologue

While you might not want to walk around the office referring to yourself in the third person, calling yourself by name in the privacy of your own mind could remove some of the emotions from your decisions.

Of course, most people don’t spend much time thinking about how they think. After all, it’s sort of a strange concept. But, everyone likely has a few bad mental habits that affect their decision-making.

But you can train your brain to think differently. And referring to yourself in the third person could be one of the best ways to sharpen your decision-making skills.

So the next time you catch yourself wondering what should I do? Ask, What should ___________ (insert your name here) do?

Posted by Amy Morin / Posted 8 months ago


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