Sport psychologists often instruct individuals on the use of self-talk as a method to motivate and improve performance.

A new study discovers performance is enhanced and confidence elevated when the self-talk is focused on the team, rather than the individual.

The study by Michigan State University researchers, led by doctoral student Veronica Son and Deborah Feltz, Ph.D., is found in the Journal of Sports Sciences.

Son and Feltz discovered that simply changing “I” to “we” in self-talk motivational statements has a significant impact on an individual’s – and thus a group’s – performance.

Son, lead author of the study, said most of the research on “self-talk” – the internal talk one does in getting ready for performance – examined the effect of building up an individual’s confidence. She was curious about the impacts of self-talk when it was focused on the group’s performance and confidence.

“I believe in the power of ‘we,'” Son said.

“The study revealed that group-oriented self-talk enhanced a team’s confidence. The findings provide fundamental information about how to effectively build positive team outcomes using self-talk focused not on ‘I’ but ‘we.'”

In the study, 80 subjects were randomly assigned to three different groups before completing a team-based dart-throwing activity: One used self-talk statements focusing upon one’s personal capabilities; another used statements emphasizing the group’s capabilities; and the third was a control group where neutral statements were implemented.

Researchers discovered performance indicators and confidence in the team were all greatest for individuals who practiced self-talk focusing on the group’s capabilities.

“By focusing on the team, you include yourself without putting the focus or extra pressure on yourself,” said Feltz.

Although the study was performed in a sports context, the researchers believe the results can be applied to many situations in the real world where working as a group is encouraged or required.

“This definitely goes beyond athletics,” Feltz said. “Reinforcing the sense of team and focusing on a team goal can help someone change health behaviors or reach sales goals.”

Source: Michigan State University