Buffini & Company Blog

Chatter: The Voice Inside Our Head – an Interview with Ethan Kross

When we face a challenge in life, we often turn inward to try to make sense of the problem and find a solution. This can be very beneficial, but it can also be a huge disadvantage because our inner voice can be our critic as well as our cheerleader. I recently interviewed acclaimed psychologist Ethan Kross about his book, “Chatter.” Ethan explained why we all have an inner voice and how we can learn to harness it to live a healthier, more satisfying and more productive life. Here are some of the top takeaways:

Get Perspective

When you have a problem, you tend to zoom in on it and lose perspective. Tunnel vision like this means you can no longer see the bigger picture, which is often really helpful in working through an issue. One set of tools that can be really useful is to shift your perspective and try to go broad.

Practice Distance Self-Talk

Coaching yourself through a problem like you’re giving advice to someone else is a very useful tool for managing your inner voice and getting perspective. Use your own name to talk to yourself – this can act like a psychological jujitsu technique, switching how you relate to yourself and getting you to advise yourself as you would your best friend.

Practice Temporal Distancing

Temporal distancing, also known as mental time travel, is all about transporting yourself into the future. When you can look forward, you can see that even though what you’re experiencing in the moment is extremely stressful, it’s temporary and it’s going to end.

Be Careful Who You Talk To

Other people can help you work through your chatter, but you must be very deliberate about who you seek support from. Venting might make you feel closer to someone, but it also keeps your problems alive. The best kinds of conversations do two things: They get you to share what you’re feeling and they nudge you to think a little differently about the situation by reframing the problem.

Tap Into the Emotion of Awe

Research shows that when we experience awe, a really powerful perspective shift happens. When we’re contemplating something vast and indescribable, our own concerns feel a whole lot smaller by comparison. If you’re struggling, go for a walk and experience nature, look at a great piece of art or even watch a video of your kids doing something momentous, like take their first steps.

The secret to managing your self-talk well is to use a combination of the tools you have. We all have a toolbox of skills, and different combinations work for different people in different situations. Even small shifts in how you think can recalibrate you when you’re struggling. Sometimes it’s just a gentle nudge to think differently that can make a difference. To learn more, listen to the latest episode of “The Brian Buffini Show.” 

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