In his postgame interview following the NFC Conference Championship Game, cornerback Richard Sherman shared some “smack talk” against his competitor, San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Michael Crabtree, warning him not to “open your mouth about the best or I’m going to shut it for you real quick.” Immediately, the footage of that statement, and how he said it, went viral.
Some critics called the rant tasteless, others simply called it “a player being in a moment before the big game.” But could this rant of telling everyone how good he is, actually a mental exercise that he uses to increase his ability?? Possibly.
It could be that the Stanford alum, who is said to be one of the most intelligent players in the NFL, knows that trash talk—whether it’s on the football field, in your office, or even over your videogame headset—can actually boost your self-confidence and ability.
In one Florida State University experiment, researchers used 40 college-age guys willing to play Madden NFL for course credit. When allowed to trash talk, the study found that the players’ confidence in their own ability increased by 46 percent. Their video game scores also tended to improve, according to the research.
Self-assurance and positive emotion are essential to performance, and talking smack appears to provide a healthy dose of both. While the effect on self-confidence and good vibes was clear, exactly how much your performance may improve is a tough thing to quantify.
While the study looked only at video games, research can be applied to other competitive situations. Playing basketball, in the office, or in a boxing ring (think Muhammad Ali, “I’m the greatest of all time!”) talking up your abilities can help.
Thinking and talking positively about yourself is “real” medicine, as proven by the placebo effect. When given a sugar pill in place of a prescription drug, an average of 30% of subjects will show a positive response. What causes this response isn’t a physical substance but the activity of the mind-body connection. Expectations are powerful. If you think you’ve been given a drug that will make you better, often that is enough to make you better.
So in your next cooking competition, office face-off, or playground show down, what will you do or say? Speak life and believe.