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Harnessing the Inner Voice to Improve Leadership, Productivity, and Well-Being

“Chatter zooms us in really narrowly on our own problems…and we lose sense of the bigger picture. Doing so can cause people to feel that they are not in control, negatively impacting our work performance, relationships, and physical health,” says Kross. Kross’s book presents several evidence-based strategies to help overcome chatter, including temporal reframing (mental time travel), mindfulness, and talking to yourself in the third person. Kross notes that there is no single magic solution and that people who use combinations of tools fare best. In addition, Kross provides advice on how to help others overcome chatter by being a “chatter advisor” — a friend or mentor that can help process problems. He emphasizes that an important aspect of being a “chatter advisor” is not only listening, but helping others reframe the experience, so they can zoom out and see the bigger picture. We can also help others overcome chatter “invisibly” in ways that do not threaten their sense of autonomy. For example, leaders of teams should avoid singling employees out and providing ways to give feedback/improvement collectively (e.g., team workshops). Kross also recommends helping personal relationships by proactively doing things (e.g., tasks around the house) when we know our loved ones are stressed. As the world returns to work, understanding Chatter and how to harness it will be helpful in experiencing continued uncertainty. Kross notes that: “Despite critical importance, we’re not talking about this at the dinner table with our kids. We’re not talking about this at our team meetings with our employees. Given the amazing things that it can do for us, I think we should be talking about it. Because there’s a whole lot of science to bear that documents not only its importance but also how it can be harnessed and usually relatively easy ways to make it work for us rather than against us.”

About KrossEthan Kross, PhD, is one of the world’s leading experts on controlling the conscious mind. An award-winning professor in the University of Michigan’s Psychology Department and its Ross School of Business, he is the director of the Emotion & Self Control Laboratory.

About the Center for Positive Organizations This story is a collaboration between Riverbank Consulting Group and the University of Michigan’s Center for Positive Organizations (CPO), an organization dedicated to building a better world by pioneering the science of thriving organizations. It is based on an event presented by CPO, which you can watch here.

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