Bonnie Brown: People Who Talk to Themselves May Be Geniuses

Not long ago, I began talking to myself. Not in a lecturing way, just musing as I went about my day. I remind myself of my “to-do” list, instruct myself in various ways (“don’t forget to apply mascara”), and just verbally observe.

It might go something like this: “I need to remember to pick up the dry cleaning.” Or if I happened to be doing laundry, I might announce—only to myself—that I need to spray a stain before plopping the shirt into the washing machine.

We all talk to our pets, but I go a step beyond—just this morning, I even cursed at a wasp and told him to go away.

I have noticed that I’m particularly gabby when I’m shopping. I tend to keep a running “discussion” about certain items, the ill-conceived design of a store layout, design of clothing or the appropriateness of a garment that I’m considering, as well as scolding rude shoppers. I found that I even give myself pet names during my “conversations,” like Bonnie-Boo, Bon-Bon, Lady, etc.

Please note that I’m generally quiet in my running discourse of whatever I’m engaged in at the moment.  I’m not trying to draw attention to myself—at least I don’t think I am—but I do become amused and smile real big when my musings on any topic are particularly astute. 

I wondered if perhaps I was rehearsing and vocalizing what I would like to say in certain circumstances—you know, when you walk away from a situation wishing you had said “that” instead of remaining silent. As I’ve grown older, I’m even more likely to express what perhaps should have remained an unspoken thought. It’s usually not an angry outburst.

But, in a recent example, I was standing in line to order lunch, and a gentleman behind me asked me if I would hold his place—he needed to be excused to go to the restroom. I agreed to do so. When another gentleman came up behind me, I mentioned that there was a gentleman who would be right back to take his place in line. The guy said, “Well, he’s lost his place as far as I’m concerned.” I was disappointed that anyone would take such a negative attitude and noticed his name was on his shirt, as well as the name of the company that he worked for, which happens to be a local assisted living facility. Without any self-editing, I commented that I thought that someone employed there would be nicer. He just shot me an annoyed look and said, “Too bad, the guy just lost his place in line when he stepped away.” When the gentleman returned, I graciously invited him to get in line ahead of me.  He was very appreciative, and I made quite the display of being happy to do him a solid.

While my family hasn’t paid particular attention to my relatively new habit of talking to myself, I began to think that perhaps I was half a bubble off plumb—you know, lost contact with the mother ship, my cornbread isn’t done in the middle, my fiddle’s not in tune, so to speak. So I decided to do some research and self-diagnose my condition. Much to my relief, there are obviously many others who own this condition. In fact, I could be called a genius. Well, that might be a slight exaggeration, but there are numerous articles to support the belief that my newly-acquired habit allows me to focus more effectively, facilitate self-improvement, and improve my memory.

But, to be honest, the improved memory definitely doesn’t apply to me. I have a long-held theory that my gray hair interferes with brain transmission, thus affecting my memory. My research further indicates that we all talk to ourselves, though usually silently. We silently self-talk to contain an emotion, clarify a situation, and focus on the task at hand. For example, I often cry at movies and weddings, so I will silently self-talk to distract myself and the emotions bubbling up so I don’t melt my make-up off my face with a torrent of tears. I might also silently self-talk to hide my eagerness to impart my philosophy about (fill in the blank—I’m such an authority!). Silent self-talk helps us focus on a task, much the way a small child talks herself through tying her shoes. 

So don’t be shy about having a conversation with yourself. It will likely be beneficial in many ways, and you can be assured that at least one person is really listening to what you say. You’re not crazy; you may be a genius!

Bonnie Brown is a retired staff member of the University of Mississippi. She most recently served as Mentoring Coordinator for the Ole Miss Women’s Council for Philanthropy.

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