Chatter by Ethan Kross is, as the cover description says, about the voice in our head and how to harness it – an offer which I had to test out. Although I’ve tamed my internal monologue to a certain extent over the years, it can still send me down negative paths so I wanted to see if Chatter could deliver on its promise.
The honest answer to this question is yes, no and maybe. I suspect that your reaction to the book will depend on how much you already know about neuroscience and I expand on this in my audiobook review below.
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Turn your inner voice from critic to coach
We all have a voice in our head. We tune into its endless chatter to look for guidance, ideas and wisdom. Except sometimes, this voice leads us down a rabbit hole of negative self-talk and endless rumination.
These silent conversations are so powerful they can sink our mood, trip us up and even impact our health. How can we take back control? This is the question award-winning psychologist Ethan Kross set out to answer twenty years ago when he began an audacious mission – to study the conversations we have with ourselves.
In Chatter, Kross interweaves cutting-edge science with real-world case studies to explain how these inner conversations shape our work and relationships. Then he reveals the tools you need to harness your own voice so that you can be happier, healthier and more productive.
Structure and Narration
The introduction and first two chapters focus on setting out the background and context of the book – defining what chatter is, and how it impacts on our lives.
The following 5 chapters cover each of the possible solutions to controlling our inner commentaries, sharing fascinating case studies and research outcomes. The book rounds off with a conclusion and tools – perhaps the most useful sections – however, not as powerful without the supporting evidence.
Ethan Kross, the author, makes an ideal narrator. As a professor in the University of Michigan’s Psychology Department and director of the Emotion and Self Control Laboratory, he’s one of the world’s leading experts on controlling the conscious mind. More importantly, he is able to connect with the listener on a personal level. This detailed knowledge coupled with the approachable narration provides an easy-to-understand insight into cutting edge research.
Real-Life vs. Theory
One of the challenges of this arm of neuroscience is that it’s impossible to read someone’s conscious mind accurately, which Ethan Kross acknowledges right from the start. He gets around this by weaving fascinating case studies and research findings into each chapter to demonstrate how using each technique can tame chatter. There are 5 main methods which provide the headers of each chapter:
- Zooming Out
- When I Become You
- The Power and Peril of Other People
- Outside In
- Mind Magic
When listening to an audiobook, I’m always curious about what it would be like to read the printed version, but in this case, I’m glad I picked this format because I think I would’ve perhaps noticed too much padding in a physical copy. On the other hand, I often lose sight of detail in audio, and I’m sure I missed some of the data in Chatter.
Regardless of these issues, the evidence was compelling and some aspects really brought some vague ideas into sharp focus, such as the negative internal and external cycles created by emoting/venting to others. I’d never considered this before, but it made complete sense especially when looking at how social media can impact on someone’s mental health.
I also enjoyed the section on ritual and magical thinking. One of the highlights of Chatter is that it overturns a lot of stereotypical assumptions – i.e. that it’s bad to talk to yourself or wrong to have rituals – and conversely, that’s it’s therapeutic to vent. I was genuinely surprised by some of the findings.
Let’s get to the nitty gritty – how useful did I find the advice?
Going back to my original response of yes, no and maybe, I had a variety of different thoughts about Chatter. My first reaction is yes, it did help – because although I didn’t necessarily learn anything new, the audiobook framed what I did know in fresh ways. It clarified vague concepts and reminded me how to harness my inner mind – something that I was often doing instinctively, yet not always with a defined approach.
On the other side of this, I add a no because I’ve done a lot of coaching and NLP training in the past so I’d come across a lot of the material before. If this area of psychology is new to you then this book is going to be pretty exciting.
And finally a maybe because I’ve not tested the techniques properly yet. If you’re looking for a book that suddenly transforms your mind into a positivity machine overnight, this isn’t it. However, it does equip you with a map, a route and sturdy pair of walking boots so you can begin the journey to a sunnier place if you’re prepared to put in a bit of legwork.
- By: Ethan Kross
- Narrated by: Ethan Kross
- Length: 5 hrs and 44 mins
- Publisher: Penguin Audio