Think Better by Talking Out Loud (Even to Yourself)

Most of us are familiar with the process of inwardly talking to ourselves. We do it silently, sometimes in abbreviated words, phrases, or our own personal codes. This “inner talk” has been shown to help us understand situations, solve problems, and generate new ideas.

But “inner talk” is often far less useful than what might be called “outer talk”: plainly audible conversational speech. Talking out loud has been found to accomplish a lot more than just conveying fully developed ideas. And – remarkably – this additional usefulness is available even when there’s no one around to listen.

For reasons not yet fully understood, “outer talk” can and does significantly aid our thinking, and thereby boost our productivity and our success, particularly when we do the following:

Ask Questions

Inquiring out loud about a situation, event, or upcoming possibility aids our thinking in several ways.

Although the specific mechanisms have not yet been identified, for many people the simple process of asking and then trying to answer a question out loud helps to clarify their field of inquiry and investigation, and coaxes their brain into a more orderly and productive train of thought.

Talking out loud somehow helps your brain to explore and better understand what’s going on, what obstacles and opportunities exist, and how best to navigate from where you are to where you would like to be.

Talking out loud also aids the clarity of your thought processes by setting up a structure into which you can place facts, observations, and conjectures, while it also establishes limits and guardrails that more tightly constrain your thoughts into relevant and useful areas.

In comparison, thinking silently about a specific situation, event, or upcoming possibility, leaves room for your mind to wander off topic, for stray ideas to drown out relevant thoughts, and for important elements to stay hidden from your consciousness.

Argue For and Against

When thinking silently about a situation, event, or upcoming possibility, we commonly come to a conclusion or formulate a plan of action without encountering any meaningful opposition. This makes it easy to overlook important facts, pitfalls, and opportunities, and can easily lead to “sub-optimal” outcomes.

To combat such inadvertent blindness, it’s a good idea to argue out loud, even when you’re alone. By openly speaking your efforts to make affirmative cases for several divergent points of view, you will often uncover more of the important facts, pitfalls, and opportunities that would otherwise remain hidden.

Explain Your Thinking

Another form of talking to yourself that’s valuable is teaching, explaining, or lecturing.

Famed scientist Richard Feynman believed that a great way to learn something is to try teaching it to someone else. Along the same lines, a great way to dig deeper into your own analysis and thoughts regarding a situation, event, or upcoming possibility is to explain yourself out loud.

By speaking out loud as you explain your thoughts, ideas, and plans, your brain somehow does a better job of fitting the various pieces together, identifying inconsistencies and missing elements, filling them in, and ultimately seeing a more accurate “big picture.”

Experience shows that trying to explain what you’re thinking, coupled with speaking out loud, triggers deeper, smarter brain processes that enable you to better grasp the essential concepts and more logically analyze the underlying fact pattern.

Explore Possible Scenarios

As you’re asking questions, arguing from various points of view, and explaining a situation, event, or upcoming possibility, you will find yourself exploring a variety of possible scenarios regarding:

  • Useful tasks you can accomplish,
  • Purposeful actions you can take,
  • Relevant resources you can apply,
  • Helpful choices you can make, and
  • Worthwhile goals you can strive for.

It’s possible you might explore these same scenarios without talking out loud, but the act of vocalizing seems to stimulate and accelerate your brain.

Because of this, speech can be far more useful than a way to transmit ideas. It can set off a complex “generative” mental process that engages many different areas of the brain, draws on broader experience and deeper knowledge, and stimulates both pattern recognition and creativity.

As a result, speaking out loud to ourselves – just as well as when we speak to others – completes a linkage between thought and expression that greatly magnifies our power to recognize, understand, and engage with the world around us and thereby improve both our work and our lives.

Important: If this material resonated with you, please take a moment to forward it to someone you care about who might also benefit. If this material was forwarded to you, please click here for your free subscription and have me send future posts to you directly. In either case, please “stay tuned” to read more great stuff. Thank you in advance for helping fulfill my dream – of making all of us more productive and successful – by spreading this information free, far, and wide!

Scroll to Top