Recently, I made one of the most important decisions in my professional life: changing careers. It was not an easy decision, and it involved a fair share of contemplation and analysis. Fortunately, I had the help of an unusual yet practical companion: my pet bird, Santiago (AKA Santi).
Below is an extract from one of my conversations with Santi:
Me: Santi, is it a good idea to quit my job? What if I can’t find a new job?
Santi: *stares indifferently*
Me: What? I know I’m unhappy in my current job, but at the very least I have a stable income.
Santi: *chirp chirp*
Me: What about my desire to go back to school? You know I’ve always wanted to go back to school and earn another degree. Do you think now is the right time to do this?
Santi: *playing with his bells*
Me: Yes, you’re right. The sooner I earn a new degree, the sooner I can have a better and more fulfilling job. But…I won’t lie to you, I’m still nervous about quitting my job.
Me: Well, yes, I understand I’ll have to make some financial sacrifices to earn my degree, but I hope that what you’re saying is right. That this will only be temporary.
Santi: *stares, again*
Me: Ah? Ah yes, sorry! No, I haven’t forgotten about feeding you.
As you can tell, the “conversation” I had with Santi was entirely one-sided. Obviously, I never expected to get an intelligent response from my bird, but this unrequited exchange allowed me to convey my ideas out loud and to be self-critical by presenting counterarguments to my own thoughts. The benefits of talking to oneself or thinking out loud are supported by scientific research. Such benefits include boosting your perceptual processing, slowing your thoughts down so they may be processed at a more manageable pace, and increasing your emotional intelligence. For example, a psychological researcher at Nottingham Trent University found that humans are 78% more likely to make a mistake when only relying on their inner monologue rather than expressing their thoughts outwardly.
If thinking out loud has evident benefits, then why is this not a common practice? The reality is that talking to oneself is negatively perceived as being bizarre, or even an early sign of insanity. In fact, people may feel ashamed when doing so, but once they start experiencing the benefits, the majority eventually gets accustomed to it.
So, if you find yourself in a conundrum unable to make a decision, it is best to consult with another person to get an outsider’s perspective. Ultimately, however, you are still the one who gets to make the final decision, which why having a pep talk with yourself is necessary. So next time you are unsure of the future ahead, try having a “conversation” with your pet. And if you don’t have a pet, a small cactus should suffice; not only they are low maintenance, but they are also a good look for your desk!
Ana Cuellar is a Mexican living in sunny Southern California. Ana graduated from the University of Southern California with a B.A. in International Relations and a minor in Economics. Her professional background includes program coordinator at education non-profits providing services to empower economically disadvantaged students and their families; and currently as program associate at a private foundation that empower communities to transform neglected outdoor spaces into welcoming destinations with free, live music accessible to all. Ana is also skilled in grant managing, outreaching strategies, and partnership building. She enjoys traveling around the world and experiencing new cultures while she shares about her own culture too. Passionate about promoting cultural exchange and intercultural communication, she is excited to be part of the HummingByrd network.