[Overton]Self-Talk: What It Is and How It Can Help Us Change

by Valerie Johnston, MS, CCC-SLP

Whether we know it or not, we talk to ourselves all the time. This "self-talk" includes the words we speak, the thoughts we think and even the feelings we feel, like a tightening in our stomachs.

We aren't even aware of most of our self-talk, but our brains listen to it all. The problem is, our brains don't know the difference between what is true and what isn't. They just listen and do their best to create the person we are describing.

Most of us don't realize how much of our self-talk is negative. Every time we say, or think, "I can't" or "I'll never" we are sending a negative message about ourselves to our brains. These negative messages make it much harder for us to change. The desired change can be anything from losing weight to stopping smoking to speaking more fluently. The negative self-talk we use interferes with our ability to change anything about ourselves.

In order to be better able to make the changes we want to make in our lives, we need to consciously replace the negative messages with something better. We have to consciously reprogram the subconscious mind by using specifically worded phrases of self-direction. These phrases should be positive, worded in the present tense and used frequently throughout the day. For example, "I use pauses to control my rate and the rate of the conversation" or "I use pullouts to make my stuttering easier". Turning your negative self-talk into positive self-talk will take time, but when you see the impact it has on your ability to change you will probably agree that it was well worth the effort.

Following is a list of the things you can do to begin to change your self-talk:

  1. listen to your self-talk
  2. listen to the self-talk of others
  3. rephrase your negative self-talk to make it positive
  4. make up your own self-talk to help you address problem areas.

For more information on self-talk refer to:

Helmstetter, Shad (1986). What to Say When You Talk to Yourself. New York: Pocket Books.

If you have questions or need more information you can contact me at:

Overton Speech & Language Center, Inc.
Fort Worth, TX
(817) 294-8408


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Copyright 2001 Overton Speech & Language Center, Inc.
Last revised: March 17, 2001