These are the advantages of speaking alone, a more frequent behaviour than it might seem.
We may do it while we are studying for exams, or when we are doing the dishes or walking around the room, but we all talk to ourselves at some point during the day.
It is assumed that when we speak we do it to communicate with other people, with which, speaking to ourselves would not be considered a true communicative act since, in principle, we would only be verbalizing our thoughts orally.
However, considering that it is a common practice and that, despite prejudices, it is something that mentally healthy people also do, it is inevitable to ask yourself this question: what are the advantages of speaking alone? Let’s see it next.
Table of contents:
- Advantages of speaking alone? Understanding this psychological phenomenon
- A story about the usefulness of speaking alone
- Inner speech is not a substitute for speaking alone
- Talk to one by simulating a conversation
- Talking to yourself encourages action
What are the advantages of speaking alone? Understanding this psychological phenomenon could be very interesting.
To a greater or lesser extent, everyone speaks alone. Although many are those who would be ashamed to say that they usually speak for themselves and others would say that only a “crazy” person can speak alone, the truth is that we all turn our thoughts into words that we address to ourselves. It is not a bad thing and, in fact, science and recent discoveries seem to indicate that speaking to oneself is one of the best ways to improve our discursive capacity, enhance creativity and even help us think better.
While until not long ago speaking was only seen as a trait of immaturity, intellectual disability, mental disorder or in the form of a Shakespearean soliloquy, nowadays it is being given certain renown by dialoguing with oneself.
A story about the usefulness of speaking alone ↑
Going back to more recent times, one of the most interesting figures who addressed the usefulness of talking to oneself was the German Heinrich von Kleist (1777-1811) in his essay “Über die allmähliche Verfertigung der Gedanken beim Reden” (On the gradual formation of thoughts while speaking, 1805). In this text, he indicates that it is not thought that produces speech, but rather that speech acts as a creative process that ends up generating thought.
In his essay he describes his habit of using oral speech as a thinking tool and indicates that not if you have trouble discovering or imagining something while silently thinking, you can overcome this obstacle through free speech. Kleist commented that people begin to form a thought in an abstract and poorly defined way, but when we start talking about it, this thought takes more shape and gives rise to a brilliant idea. Ideas come as you speak.
Finally, it is not possible to discuss the history of this idea without mentioning Lev Vygotsky and his studies in the 1920s. This Russian psychologist observed that children talk to themselves, telling themselves what they are doing and what they are going to do ”. With the passage of time, this talk with oneself becomes internalized, becoming that little mental voice that is the “silent” thought or “internal speech”, typical of adults.
Based on what Vygotsky and several of his successors observed, talking to oneself acquires a fundamental mental role in childhood. Children guide their behaviour by reminding themselves aloud of what they do and have to do, something that led the Russian psychologist to consider private speech a crucial stage for child development.
Inner speech is not a substitute for speaking alone ↑
Internalizing the speech is typical of maturity, but it is not a behaviour that replaces speaking alone, but it is a strategy that is beneficial for certain aspects and is more discreet than speaking out loud. Not saying everything we think is clear that it can save us more than one problem on a social level.
The main disadvantage of internal speech, that is, thinking silently, is that we do it faster than we would with verbal speech. When we think, it is common that we do not think in complete sentences, we eat words or even think of a lot of ideas at the same time that, faced with such mental disorder, we are overwhelmed and frustrated. Our thinking can become very disjointed, condensed and partial, even without suffering from a mental disorder.
On the other hand, when we speak to ourselves we say complete sentences, the ideas come one after another and we think better. We are more aware of our thoughts, coherently and meaningfully spinning the ideas we have in our mind, which translates into the development of metacognition and better reasoning.
It is thanks to all this that, in case we have become blank on any issue or we do not have a very clear idea, verbalizing it orally allows us to see what its weak point is and, even, encourages creativity and imagination, filling in that mental hole.
Talk to one by simulating a conversation ↑
Talking to oneself also increases our dialogic capacity. While it is true that speaking alone we do not interact with another person, the fact of speaking to ourselves helps us to actively build the image of the person with whom we want to speak. This behaviour activates our theory of mind, that is, it makes us think about the other person’s mental states, imagining how they will react to what we are going to say, what they might not understand or if they are going to ask us a question.
It is true that we could do this through internal speech, imagining a conversation with that person without articulating any oral word. However, as we have mentioned before, thinking without speaking has the disadvantage that we eat words and phrases, in addition to that some ideas can all come condensed and at once, which makes it very difficult to imagine a natural conversation. Also, when we talk to other people we do it orally, and practising speaking is a much more realistic drill than doing it silently.
Talking to yourself encourages action ↑
It is very typical to see in movies and television series the scene of a person who is preparing what he is going to say to another. He does not only do it to prepare the conversation but also to motivate himself and tell him at once what he wants to say that, in the series, is usually a hard message to hear. In real life we use this resource both to motivate ourselves to talk to another person and to dare to start a project or do something that scared us, saying phrases in the second person such as “You can!” or “Come on, it’s not that difficult.”
Although many continue to believe that talking is only something typical of crazy people and young children, the truth is that it is another behaviour that offers us a lot of advantages at a cognitive and social level. By talking to ourselves we can organize our thinking, turn abstract and unclear ideas into bright and complete ones, reflecting better by saying things out loud than doing it silently. It is very difficult to organize a thought that comes to us in a partial and condensed way. In addition, if what we have to say is hard both to say and to listen, talking to ourselves helps us to motivate ourselves to say it while we practice so that the blow is soft.
Regardless of whether we usually talk to ourselves a lot, it is clear that this practice is not a sign of mental immaturity or synonymous with a psychological disorder. Many of us speak out loud when we study, do homework, or simply to better remind ourselves of what to do. So talking to yourself is not crazy, but genius.