know better. This is the kind of self-talk that might occur before we
approach this beautiful hunk of man or woman: "When can I talk to
him/her? Let's try to catch him/her between English and Math. What
can I say? What about, 'Hi! How is the ___ team coming along?'
Sounds pretty good but I am afraid he/she just won't want to talk to
me. Hey, get off that self-putdown stuff; it's a compliment to be
approached. I really care about him/her." Later, between classes, we
do see him/her and our internal coach says: "OK, go up to him/her
and smile and say, 'Hi! How is...'. You can do it. Don't make such a big
deal out of just speaking. Hey, I know it's scary but go ahead! It
doesn't matter that a friend is with him/her. Do it NOW." The self-talk
keeps us on track, checks out our feelings, calms us down, and keeps
us from taking the easy way out. Finally, after talking for a few
minutes, the self-talk might go like this: "Wow, I did it! It went well.
And he/she was friendly! By gosh, I'm going to call him/her tonight. I
As your own therapist, you become your own directing, comforting,
inspiring, rewarding coach. A sample of "guiding" self-talk is "OK, what
do I need to do now?" or "Make a plan" or "What can I say if he/she
seems real friendly?" etc. A sample of "calming" self-talk is "Don't get
uptight, it doesn't help" or "Take a deep breath...relax" or "I can
handle this," etc. A sample of "rational" self-talk is "It isn't the end of
the world if ____ doesn't think I'm fantastic." or "Oh, God, I don't
know anything about that. He/she will think I'm dumb. I'll pretend I
know. No, I don't need to do that. I'll ask questions...I am interested
and he/she can explain it to me," etc. (See Challenging Your Irrational
Ideas in chapter 14.) A sample of "rewarding" self-talk is "I did it!" or
"I'm getting better" or "I'm tough enough to stick it out; it will work
out; I have a good plan," etc.
The self-instructions need to be as well thought out and as
practiced as the behavior. Self-statements should be in your own
words, tailored to your specific situation, and designed to lead to more
reasonable judgment and desired feelings and behaviors
(Meichenbaum, 1977). See chapter 12 for a more detailed description
of self-talk as a method of self-control with emotions.
STEP FOUR: Practice the self-talk and the desired behavior.
One might start by rehearsing mentally, imagining giving self-
instructions, and carrying out the desired behavior. Then talk out loud
and act it out. Then one might role-play with a friend (see chapter 13).
Practice as long as you need to, don't procrastinate, and then DO
STEP FIVE: Try out the new self-talk and behavior; see how it
In 1893, William James, speaking about breaking bad habits, gave
this advice: Learn a new habit to replace the old one. To do this, he
said (1) launch yourself with as much initiative as possible (change