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Chatter refers to this negative cycle of thinking and feeling that leads us to get stuck in ways that can be really toxic for our health, for our relationships, and for our ability to think and perform  – Ethan Kross

“Do you ask what progress I have made? I have begun to be a friend to myself.” Valuable progress indeed: he will never be alone.” —Seneca

On this podcast, I delve into what cognitive science is learning about the conversations we have with ourselves – and how to manage them.

My guest is Ethan Kross, Ph.D. An award-winning professor in the University of Michigan’s top-ranked Psychology Department and its Ross School of Business, he studies how the conversations people have with themselves impact their health, performance, decisions, and relationships. And his research has been published in academic journals and featured in the New York Times, the Economist, and the New Yorker, to name just a few.

He is also the author of the just-published book, Chatter: The Voice in Our Head, Why It Matters, and How to Harness It, and it’s the topic of our chat.

Why do we talk to ourselves?

Ethan explained to me that our brains have an affinity for disconnecting from what’s happening around us. This then offers an opportunity for the conversations in our minds. Our inner voice is crucial and helps us evaluate what we do, calibrating our gap-to-goal actions. We have a monitoring default state.

But it can turn on us.

Anxious or negative chatter can tank athletic performance and sabotage your career.

Chatter is often triggered when we interpret a situation as a threat—something we can’t manage.

Hello, pandemic.

Ethan says uncertainty and a lack of control are agents that fuel (internal) chatter.

If you had asked me when I started this project, for a formula for a mass chatter event, we are living through that right now. And all the ingredients are there; a once in a century uncontrollable and uncertain pandemic – Ethan Kross

These internal conversations also determine our experiences. Your mood is most often defined not by what you did but by what you thought about what you did at the time you were doing it.

On the show, we cover a lot of his research on “chatter” laid out in his new book

  • Why do we do it?
  • Origins of the voices
  • How chatter can backfire on us
  • Tips (and tools) on improving or quelling negative chatter
  • How to properly coach yourself and the use of pronouns
  • Affirmations and how to talk to yourself
  • And much more

It’s arguable that some of the most important conversations you will have in your life will are the ones you have with yourself.

So tell yourself to give it a listen.

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