Talk to You: The Benefits of Talking to Yourself in Third Person

The official name of someone who refers to herself in third person is an illeist. Most famous illeists are men. The Rock. Bob Dole. Elmo. Which is  definitely cute. Case in point: Little kids do it all the time. “Andy wants a cookie.” “Maya wants to watch TV.” And little kids, as some of you know, are the best negotiators. They win all the time. 

So why don’t women do it? Ellen Degeneres makes a pretty hilarious a case against illeism here

But there is a difference between talking to yourself in third person in FRONT of other people (which, granted, is super annoying) and talking to yourself about yourself. 

In fact, it can help you gain a psychological edge. Here’s how: 


During difficult situations, talking to yourself in third person can actually help calm you down. 

According to a recent study published in the journal Scientific Reports, talking about yourself to yourself is a way to make that internal monologue useful. 

The study explains, “Although people frequently engage in such ‘self-talk,’ recent findings indicate that the language they use to refer to the self when they engage in this process influences self-control. Specifically, using one’s own name to refer to the self during introspection, rather than the first-person pronoun ‘I,’ increases peoples’ ability to control their thoughts, feelings, and behavior under stress.” 

Check out the science of it all here


Let’s say you’re about to explode on your co-worker. You’re stuck in your office and you have no one to talk to. The psychological strategy called “self-distancing” is known to help us better control our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.

Instead of lashing out and doing damage to your career, you take a step back, and therefore hopefully, a step forward. 

Getting frustrated in the workplace is incredibly common. Reports have found that only 16 percent of workers feel connected and engaged. Low engagement leads to high frustration and workplace unhappiness. 

"Talking to yourself in third person as the verbal equivalent of taking a walk."

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Think of talking to yourself in third person as the verbal equivalent of taking a walk, when a walk around the block isn’t possible. 


Those pep talks you give yourself in the morning? Do it in third person, with either your own name or a pronoun like “you,” “he/she.” 

Or do it before you're about to step into a big presentation to calm your jitters. Practice and see what happens to your nerves when you make the switch. 


"I can do this. I know this material and I'm ready to go in and show them." 


"You can do this. You know this material and you're ready to go in and show them." 

In the third person example you become your best friend. The person who is there to cheer you on. When you can't believe in yourself, let third person you do it for you. And it's not only the Rock and Bob Dole who've practiced this art. Famous male athletes do it all the time. And while we don't suggest taking it as far as LeBron James (another famoua illeist) or Pele ("Nobody did what Pele did. Being champion of the world at 17 years old, won three World Cups, scored more than 1,208 goals - only him!" said Pele of Pele. "Then until now, nobody did this... to me, Pele is the best.") there is something to be said of the confidence this takes. 

We are typically better at pumping up others and relieving their anxiety. So ladies, let's agree, it's not just for men and puppets. It's time we turn the pump up third person self-talk on ourselves.  

Arianna would love for this to happen.