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Chatter
Cover of Chatter
Chatter
The Voice in Our Head, Why It Matters, and How to Harness It
NATIONAL BESTSELLER • An award-winning psychologist reveals the hidden power of our inner voice and shows how to harness it to combat anxiety, improve physical and mental health, and deepen our relationships with others.

LONGLISTED FOR THE PORCHLIGHT BUSINESS BOOK AWARD • “A masterpiece.”—Angela Duckworth, bestselling author of Grit • Malcolm Gladwell, Susan Cain, Adam Grant, and Daniel H. Pink’s Next Big Idea Club Winter 2021 Winning Selection

One of the best new books of the year—The Washington Post, BBC, USA Today, CNN Underscored, Shape, Behavioral Scientist, PopSugarKirkus Reviews, Publishers Weekly, and Shelf Awareness starred reviews

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.
NATIONAL BESTSELLER • An award-winning psychologist reveals the hidden power of our inner voice and shows how to harness it to combat anxiety, improve physical and mental health, and deepen our relationships with others.

LONGLISTED FOR THE PORCHLIGHT BUSINESS BOOK AWARD • “A masterpiece.”—Angela Duckworth, bestselling author of Grit • Malcolm Gladwell, Susan Cain, Adam Grant, and Daniel H. Pink’s Next Big Idea Club Winter 2021 Winning Selection

One of the best new books of the year—The Washington Post, BBC, USA Today, CNN Underscored, Shape, Behavioral Scientist, PopSugarKirkus Reviews, Publishers Weekly, and Shelf Awareness starred reviews

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.
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  • From the cover

    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 British anthropologist Andrew Irving did over the course of fourteen months beginning in 2010—listened in on the minds of just over a hundred New Yorkers.

    While Irving hoped to gain a glimpse into the raw verbal life of the human mind—or rather an audio sample of it—the origin of his study actually had to do with his interest in how we deal with the awareness of death. A professor at the University of Manchester, he had done earlier fieldwork in Africa analyzing the vocalized inner monologues of people diagnosed with HIV/AIDS. Unsurprisingly, their thoughts roiled with the anxiety, uncertainty, and emotional pain produced by their diagnoses.

    Now Irving wanted to compare these findings with a group of people who surely had their woes but weren’t necessarily in aggrieved states to begin with. To carry this out, he simply (and bravely!) approached New Yorkers on the street and in parks and cafés, explained his study, and asked if they would be willing to speak their thoughts aloud into a recording device while he filmed them at a distance.

    Some days, a handful of people said yes; other days, only one. It was to be expected that most New Yorkers would be too busy or skeptical to agree. Eventually, Irving gathered his one hundred “streams of internally represented speech,” as he described them, in recordings ranging from fifteen minutes to an hour and a half. The recordings obviously don’t provide an all-access backstage pass to the mind, because an element of performance might have come into play for some participants. Even so, they offer an uncommonly candid window into the conversations people have with themselves as they navigate their daily lives.

    As was only natural, prosaic concerns occupied space in the minds of everyone in Irving’s study. Many people commented on what they observed on the streets—other pedestrians, drivers, and traffic, for example—as well as on things they needed to do. But existing alongside these unremarkable musings were monologues negotiating a host of personal wounds, distresses, and worries. The narrations often landed on negative content with utterly no transition, like a gaping pothole appearing suddenly on the unspooling road of thought. Take, for example, a woman in Irving’s study named Meredith whose inner conversation pivoted sharply from everyday concerns to matters of literal life and death.

    “I wonder if there’s a Staples around here,” Meredith said, before shifting, like an abrupt lane change, to a friend’s recent cancer diagnosis. “You know, I thought she was going to tell me that her cat...

Reviews-
  • AudioFile Magazine Psychologist Ethan Kross compellingly narrates his advice on how to control the sometimes negative effects of introspection. Kross explains why we have an inner voice and the importance of taming negative thoughts, and provides scientific tips on how to develop a healthier internal dialogue. In a soothing tone, he sympathetically recounts examples of how unhealthy self-talk affected those in his case studies and offers listeners helpful, enthusiastic advice on how to start controlling their thoughts for a better life. The first step is to remember to stay present. Kross wants listeners to replace damaging thoughts with encouraging words to improve physical and mental health and achieve inner peace. D.Z. � AudioFile 2021, Portland, Maine
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    All copies of this title, including those transferred to portable devices and other media, must be deleted/destroyed at the end of the lending period.

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