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Reviews of Chatter by Ethan Kross

Chatter

The Voice in Our Head, Why It Matters, and How to Harness It

by Ethan Kross

Chatter by Ethan Kross X
Chatter by Ethan Kross
  • Critics' Opinion:

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     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Jan 2021, 272 pages

    Paperback:
    Feb 2022, 288 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Nichole Brazelton
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About this Book

Book Summary

An award-winning psychologist reveals the hidden power of our inner voice and shows how we can harness it to live a healthier, more satisfying, and more productive life.

Tell a stranger that you talk to yourself, and you're likely to get written off as eccentric. But the truth is that we all have a voice in our head. When we talk to ourselves, we often hope to tap into our inner coach but find our inner critic instead. When we're facing a tough task, our inner coach can buoy us up: Focus—you can do this. But, just as often, our inner critic sinks us entirely: I'm going to fail. They'll all laugh at me. What's the use?

In Chatter, acclaimed psychologist Ethan Kross explores the silent conversations we have with ourselves. Interweaving groundbreaking behavioral and brain research from his own lab with real-world case studies—from a pitcher who forgets how to pitch, to a Harvard undergrad negotiating her double life as a spy—Kross explains how these conversations shape our lives, work, and relationships. He warns that giving in to negative and disorienting self-talk—what he calls "chatter"—can tank our health, sink our moods, strain our social connections, and cause us to fold under pressure.

But the good news is that we're already equipped with the tools we need to make our inner voice work in our favor. These tools are often hidden in plain sight—in the words we use to think about ourselves, the technologies we embrace, the diaries we keep in our drawers, the conversations we have with our loved ones, and the cultures we create in our schools and workplaces.

Brilliantly argued, expertly researched, and filled with compelling stories, Chatter gives us the power to change the most important conversation we have each day: the one we have with ourselves.

Chapter One

Why We Talk to Ourselves

The sidewalks of New York City are superhighways of anonymity. During the day, millions of intent pedestrians stride along the pavement, their faces like masks that betray nothing. The same expressions pervade the parallel world beneath the streets—the subway. People read, look at their phones, and stare off into the great invisible nowhere, their faces disconnected from whatever is going on in their minds.

Of course, the unreadable faces of eight million New Yorkers belie the teeming world on the other side of that blank wall they've learned to put up: a hidden "thoughtscape" of rich and active internal conversations, frequently awash with chatter. After all, the inhabitants of New York are nearly as famous for their neuroses as they are for their gruffness. (As a native, I say this with love.) Imagine, then, what we might learn if we could burrow past their masks to eavesdrop on their inner voices. As it happens, that is exactly what the ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide will contain spoilers!
  1. Discuss a time when you felt you were impacted by your own mental chatter. Were you able to work your way through it? If so, what tactics did you use? Were any of those tactics similar to those described by Kross?
  2. Kross explains that our childhood caretakers can have a strong influence on our internal voice as we develop. Do you recognize the influence of your childhood caretakers on your inner voice now? Why or why not?
  3. In Andrew Irving 's study of New Yorkers' recorded internal speech, he observed that people's inner monologues "often landed on negative content with utterly no transition, like a gaping pothole appearing suddenly on the unspooling road of thought." Why do you think people are often drawn to the negative?
  4. According to ...
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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Using a combination of research, scientific grounding and personal experience, Kross writes about an academic subject in layman's terms while providing down-to-earth, honest advice. His presentation is easy to grasp but never condescending, and his thoughtful inclusion of anecdotes of his own and from others guards against making readers feel intellectually or emotionally intimidated. Kross defines "chatter" as "the cyclical negative thoughts and emotions that turn our singular capacity for introspection into a curse rather than a blessing." The author assures us that there are ways to control this inner voice, and even ways we can use it to benefit us, stating, "the key to beating chatter isn't to stop talking to yourself. The challenge is to figure out how to do so more effectively."..continued

Full Review (701 words)

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(Reviewed by Nichole Brazelton).

Media Reviews

New Yorker
Kross is likable and practical on the page, and his self-help program seems less insidiously evil than most. That said, when Chatter defined awe as a brain state in which 'the neural activity associated with self-immersion decreases,' I despaired. There's something deeply mysterious, even awesome, about our inner voice...Kross has good ideas about how to manage and control this voice, and yet his book at times feels transactional where it could be curious.

The Guardian (UK)
Are there right and wrong ways to communicate with yourself, and if so, are there techniques that might usefully be employed by those with inner voices that are just a little too loud? ... Kross has found answers to some, if not all, of these questions...[Chatter] could hardly be published at a more opportune moment.

Booklist
A practical, useful guide to quieting one's inner noise.

Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
Although an academic with impressive credentials, the author speaks to all students of life, grounding the text with illuminating vignettes pulled from the lives of public figures as well as his own. In the end, he shows us how we might have better chats with ourselves, ones that make us happier, healthier, and more productive people. A book that will truly change minds.

Publishers Weekly (starred review)
Kross, the director of the University of Michigan's Emotion & Self Control Laboratory, debuts with an eye-opening look at managing 'the silent conversations people have with themselves'...Readers dealing with issues of self-talk would do well to pick up Kross's stimulating foray into popular psychology.

Library Journal
A well-reasoned, well-researched guide for those prone to negative self-talk and those who support them.

Author Blurb Adam Grant, bestselling author of Originals and Give and Take, and host of the TED podcast WorkLife
This book is going to fundamentally change some of the most important conversations in your life—the ones you have with yourself. Along with being a pioneering psychologist and neuroscientist, Ethan Kross is an unusually gifted writer and storyteller. He shows that instead of trying to silence your monkey mind, you can learn to educate it, motivate it, and even reason with it.

Author Blurb Angela Duckworth, bestselling author of Grit
Fresh and riveting, Chatter is a masterpiece—a landmark book that will change the way you think about human nature. Ethan Kross is one part sage, one part mensch, and one part world-class psychological scientist. When I need advice, it's Ethan I call. Now, through Chatter, everyone has a chance to learn about their inner voice from among the wisest people I know. Required reading for all.

Author Blurb Susan Cain, bestselling author of Quiet
Ethan Kross isn't just a world-renowned scientist, he's an expert storyteller too. In Chatter, he shows why our inner voice is indispensable, and reveals how we can master it. Urgent, lucid, and compelling, Chatter is the groundbreaking and transformative book the world needs now.

Reader Reviews

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Beyond the Book

Rick Ankiel

Rick Ankiel Rick Ankiel was born in 1979 in Fort Pierce, Florida. At an early age, he threw himself into baseball as a way of escaping a tumultuous and often violent home life. In 1997, as a pitcher for Port St. Lucie High School, he was named "High School Player of the Year" by USA Today. By his major league baseball debut with the St. Louis Cardinals in 1999, he had racked up several pitching successes and respected titles in the minor leagues: He was named "best pitching prospect" in both the Carolina and Midwest Leagues; he was also the Carolina League's All-Star starting pitcher, Baseball America's first-team Minor League All-Star starting pitcher and the Cardinals' Minor League Player of the Year.

However, as is detailed in Chatter by ...

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