If you ever speak out loud to yourself, don’t worry, contrary to popular belief, it isn’t the first sign of madness! Research suggests it can be a useful tool when you need to complete a difficult task or manage difficult emotions. This is commonly labelled as positive self-talk, which is one of the techniques recommended for developing driving confidence.
There is a wealth of psychological research into the role of private speech in childhood development, for adults and even for developing self-awareness in robots. Speaking aloud is common in young children and often reappears in adults while tackling difficult or complex tasks.
In a recent study, it was reported that inner speech occurred most while studying and driving. Talking to oneself (either aloud or silently) has been shown to play a positive role in regulating emotions, problem-solving, decision making, motivation, setting goals and memory so could be considered a useful tool during driving lessons.
Private speech (speaking out loud)
Encourage your students to speak out loud while carrying out any driving tasks that are new or that they find difficult. If they can talk themselves through a manoeuvre, they are likely to feel more in control, stay focused on what they need to do and make better decisions. Plus, as the instructor, you have the bonus of hearing what they are thinking to be able to identify any gaps in their knowledge.
If a student talks out loud to themselves in driving lessons, let them know to continue doing so on their driving test. If a student is becoming increasingly nervous in the run-up to their driving test, suggest they give commentary driving a try. Even if they have not needed it during lessons, it may help them regulate their nerves and stay focused on their driving instead of on negative internal thoughts.
Inner speech (speaking silently)
According to research, many of us speak to ourselves silently while driving, usually about something other than driving though. We use inner speech (the little voice in our head) when we talk to ourselves about a variety of things, from reflecting on something that has just happened, to planning for something that might happen. It is likely that most learner drivers’ inner speech is directed towards their driving as their driving ability will still require large amounts of concentration. They may move to silently talk themselves through driving tasks as they become more practised and no longer feel the need to speak aloud.
Often inner speech can take the form of a critical voice and negative thoughts. Psychological research into motivational self-talk in health, injuries and sport all show a positive impact on performance and self-belief. A motivational self-talk exercise would involve students noticing and logging any negative statements that they say to themselves during driving lessons or in advance of a test then choosing new positive or motivational statements that they think would be helpful for them to use. For example, a learner driver who tells themselves they will never learn how to drive, that it is too hard, or there is too much to learn might use a motivational statement such as:
“I might still have a lot to learn, but I am proud of how far I have come already.”
These new motivational statements should be practised before and after driving as well as whenever the old negative statements pop into their mind. After each driving lesson, when completing their reflective log, they should also reflect on their motivational statements, how comfortable they feel with them, how effective they are and rephrase them where necessary. Listen out for any negative comments that your students are using during their driving lessons and suggest an alternative, motivational or positive phrase that they could use.
Self-talk, internal and out loud, will not suit all of your students but the research shows clear benefits in areas of sport, health, teaching and business so why not consider applying it to driver training too?
Source: ADI News
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