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Adult Learner > Strategies > Positive Self-talk

Positive Self-talk


Positive self-talk can support self-efficacy, optimism, Self-regulation, and a Learner Mindset. How adults identify as learners and their persistence when faced with a challenge can be impacted by their internal dialogue. Practicing positive self-talk is important across the lifespan due to the clear relationship between self-talk and performance, mental and physical health, and stress-related variables.

Self-talk can be thought in one's mind or spoken out loud for any of the following purposes: interpreting one's feelings and perceptions, regulating and changing evaluations, or giving oneself instructions or reinforcement. Four types of self-talk include positive, negative, motivational, and instructional. Positive self-talk can support stress reduction, increased Attention, and increased Cognitive Flexibility while mitigating negative effects of Adverse Experiences.

Use It In Your Learning Environment

Small shifts in the language people use to refer to the self can influence their ability to regulate their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors in stress-related contexts. Self-talk can involve using "I" statements, "you" referring to the self, or "distanced self-talk" using one's own name and other non-first person pronouns. Distanced self-talk has been found to be particularly effective in adults' Self-regulation of Emotions.

Instructors can help adult learners identify self-talk traps, utilize positive affirmations, use visual cues reflecting positivity, create boundaries, and check-in with their emotions to build awareness of emerging negative self-talk patterns or ruminations that can impede learning and goal-attainment. Adult learners can be encouraged to keep a journal noting their self-talk for deeper self-reflection and recognition of self-generated mental patterns that may be maladaptive. Analysis and labeling of self-talk can lead to deeper self-awareness and recognition of potential triggers toward negative self-talk. Examples of positive self-talk can be gathered over a specific time frame then repeated for the adult learner to discover and notice growth in self-regulating internal dialog patterns. Specific activities could include creating artifacts or visuals reflecting positive affirmations or positive self-talk, such as positive affirmation mood boards, My Best Self posters, or interactive discussions of examples of positive or negative self-talk in literature, news, and social media posts for group analysis and discourse.

Workforce training and edtech products can model and encourage positive self-talk by framing positive statements related to effort and specific strategy use into the feedback provided to adult learners. Scenarios can be created in which characters utilize positive and negative self-talk to be identified and corrected by the adult learners and case studies can be explored. Goal-setting components could weave in positive affirmations and model effective positive self-talk. Products for adult learners can also include features that promote self-reflection, record self-talk and internal dialogue while interacting with the platform, and track and label their self-talk for later analysis.


Below are additional examples, research, and professional development. These resources are possible representations of this strategy, not endorsements.