To perform better, focus on ‘we’ not ‘me’

MICHIGAN STATE (US) — Individuals perform better and are more confident when they focus on the power of “we.”

The findings, published in the Journal of Sports Sciences, show that simply changing “I” to “we” in motivational self-talk—the internal talk one does in getting ready for performance—has a significant impact on an individual’s—and thus a group’s—performance.


Veronica Son, a doctoral student in kinesiology at Michigan State University and lead author of the study, says most of the research on “self-talk” examined the effect of building up an individual’s confidence.

She was curious about the effects of self-talk when it was focused on the group’s performance and confidence.

“I believe in the power of ‘we,'” Son says. “The study revealed that group-oriented self-talk enhanced a team’s confidence. The findings provide fundamental information about how to effectively build positive team outcomes using self-talk focused not on ‘I’ but ‘we’.”

As part of the study, 80 subjects were randomly assigned to three different groups before completing a team-based dart-throwing activity: One used self-talk statements focusing upon one’s personal capabilities; another used statements emphasizing the group’s capabilities; and the third was a control group where neutral statements were implemented.

Overall, performance indicators and confidence in the team were all greatest for individuals who practiced self-talk focusing on the group’s capabilities.

“By focusing on the team, you include yourself without putting the focus or extra pressure on yourself,” says Deborah Feltz, chairperson of the kinesiology department and study co-author.

While the study focused on a sports context, Son and Feltz say working as a group is prevalent in many of life’s contexts, from business to academia.

“This definitely goes beyond athletics,” Feltz says. “Reinforcing the sense of team and focusing on a team goal can help someone change health behaviors or reach sales goals.”

Son is already completing a follow-up study focusing on performance anxiety and whether group-focused self-talk plays a role in decreasing anxiety.

More news from Michigan State University: