This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "Chatter" by Ethan Kross. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.
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In Chatter, neuroscientist and experimental psychologist Ethan Kross highlights how negative self-talk interferes with your happiness, health, and success. He argues that you can improve your life by quieting negative self-talk and provides practical strategies for harnessing the benefits of self-talk.
Below is a selection of passages with explanations.
The Voice in Our Head, Why It Matters, and How to Harness It
In his book Chatter, neuroscientist and experimental psychologist Ethan Kross explores the private conversations we have with ourselves and how they impact our well-being and life outcomes. Further, he lays out practical strategies to help you silence your inner critic and rewire your mind for more positivity.
The following Chatter book quotes highlight some of the key ideas:
“the voices of culture influence our parents’ inner voices, which in turn influence our own, and so on through the many cultures and generations that combine to tune our minds. We are like Russian nesting dolls of mental conversations.”
Although our capacity for self-talk is hard-wired into our brains, it’s also shaped by the world outside our heads. Kross argues that our upbringing and culture influence our self-talk. We internalize the voices of those around us, especially those of our parents. Their voices usually reflect larger cultural beliefs.
For instance, imagine that your culture has the following social norm: Refrain from displaying intense emotions around strangers. While growing up, your parents repeatedly reminded you of this norm. Over time, you internalized their vocal reminders. Now, their words are part of your self-talk, reminding you to be emotionally reserved in public.
“Engage in mental time travel. Another way to gain distance and broaden your perspective is to think about how you’ll feel a month, a year, or even longer from now. Remind yourself that you’ll look back on whatever is upsetting you in the future and it’ll seem much less upsetting.”
Kross claims that you can quiet negative self-talk by engaging in mental time travel. He advises that you compare your present situation to other challenges you’ve endured in the past. Remembering these past successes offers hope that you’re capable of persisting through your current challenge. These feelings of hope can transform your internal cynic into an internal mentor.
“… spontaneous thoughts related to goals are among the most frequent kind that fill our mind. It’s our inner voice alerting us to pay attention to an objective.”
One of the main functions of self-talk is that it directs you towards your goals. It does this in three ways:
- It motivates you by offering encouragement.
- It prompts you to assess your progress by reflecting on your accomplishments so far and comparing them to your goals.
- It helps you plan for the future by directing you to engage in behaviors that increase your chances of accomplishing your goals.
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Here's what you'll find in our full Chatter summary:
- How negative self-talk interferes with your happiness, health, and success
- Research-based strategies for managing negative self-talk
- Four actionable tips for quieting your internal cynic