When talking about our negative experiences, it’s good to use the third person

In a workshop here at LTH led by Peter Felten in December, I wrote down something he said after having asked participants to think about stories of personal experiences to exemplify a point, and that was to talk about positive experiences using “I”, and negative ones using the third person, because that’s “psychologically better” (even though it might seem weird). I was thinking about this today planning a workshop I am giving soon, and wanted to back up the “psychologically better” part of my own instruction of talking in the third person with some research. Long story short (mainly because I only read a lot of abstracts and hence don’t want to actually cite any article I didn’t read…) — a quick google scholar search totally supports the “psychologically better” on many different measures in many different studies: higher life satisfaction, lower hostility, increased feeling of agency, less emotional pain. So there really seems to be something to it, and even though I can’t point to the One Study or fully understand the mechanisms (more than that self-distancing seems to be good to provide more perspective and overview), I’ll definitely follow his example, and pass on his advice!

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