What are the conversations you have with yourself in your head? Researcher Albarracín Senay thought self-talk would be an interesting angle to study. He wanted to see if the sentence structure or the types of words our mind uses to talk to ourselves, change our plans and actions. He decided to test this by having participants in his experiment work on a set of anagrams where they had to change the words (like kale to a lake). Before participants did this, Senay asked one group to simply think about whether they would work on anagrams, and he asked the other groups to think about the fact that they would be doing anagrams soon.

The first group went into wondering mode: “Will I?” and the second group was gearing up their will to do something: “I will.”

Which group do you think did better? The group with the wondering minds did many more anagrams than the willful group! Participants who made their minds open were more successful than those who were trying to will themselves.

Senay tried this again by having two groups of participants write out the statements: “Will I?” and “I will.” They then had to work on anagrams. Again, the “Will I?” group performed better.

Leaders ask themselves, ask others and ask the world.

Try for yourself
Try to stay away from explaining today (to yourself and your coworkers), instead focus on questioning. You know that you are on the right track when someone tells you “why do you have to question everything?”


Vanessa Van Edwards, Science of People