Feb. 2, 2021

Ethan Kross, University of Michigan Professor: Harnessing Your Inner Voice (w/ Oliver Winterbone)

Ethan Kross, University of Michigan Professor: Harnessing Your Inner Voice (w/ Oliver Winterbone)

My guest today is , one of the world’s leading experts on controlling the conscious mind. He’s currently a professor at the University of Michigan, where he founded the . He’s also the author of , which is the focus of our conversation...

My guest today is Ethan Kross, one of the world’s leading experts on controlling the conscious mind. He’s currently a professor at the University of Michigan, where he founded the Emotion & Self Control Laboratory. He’s also the author of Chatter: The Voice in Our Head, Why It Matters, and How to Harness It, which is the focus of our conversation today.

In this episode, we learn about what coaches can do to help reframe the negative self-talk we have with ourselves and help our players do the same. Ethan walks us through examples of how he would handle different situations, including coaching a player who is reluctant to take advice, helping a player deal with negative self talk when enduring a slump, or why he would encourage players to have routines like tennis great Rafael Nadal.

From time to time I am going to have others co-host episodes with me and today I’m joined by Oliver Winterbone. Oliver is the Director of Coaches and Executives at Wasserman, one of the premiere talent management companies in the world. He previously spent five seasons in the front office of the Oklahoma City Thunder in various roles, most recently as Director of Player Development. Before that he worked for the University of Florida Basketball program from 2010-14 which is when we got to know each other.

Show Notes:

(1:28) - Episode begins with a story of Rick Ankiel

(6:12) - Ethan gives an overview of topics he covers in the book and what ‘chatter’ is

(10:30) - Ethan explains the three buckets of tools to help coaches handle negative self-talk or help players handle negative-self talk

(12:59) - Ethan explains how to use distanced self-talk

(16:09) - Best practices to coach a player experiencing anxiety while playing

(19:55) - The benefits of rituals

(24:55) - How rituals performed as a group help shrink the sense of self and make us feel part of something bigger than ourselves

(25:25) - How coaches should advise players to use rituals for their advantage

(28:20) - Why it’s important to have a chatter “Board of Advisors” and choose who you go to for help and support carefully

(32:20) - How coaches can help address both the emotion and cognitive parts of someone’s problem

(35:15) - How social media contributes to our negative self-talk and advice on handling the upside and downside of social media

(45:30) - How to give unsolicited advice or coach a player who isn’t receptive to listening to you

(48:38) - How ‘touch’ helps us work through difficult times

(54:55) - How experiencing the emotion of ‘awe’ can help us handle chatter and feel part of something bigger

(58:00) - How to learn to treat ourselves kinder (mentions Tim Ferriss’ podcast with Jim Loehr)

(1:01:25) - Advice for parents to encourage positive behaviors around chater

(1:05:31) - End of episode questions

End of Episode Questions:

1.    What’s 1 book every coach should read?

2.    Who is one person you’d want to hear as a guest on this podcast? 

  • Jim Harbaugh

3.    What’s one area you’re looking to improve in over the next year? 

  • Spend more time with his children

4.    What’s popular advice you hear people say that you think is wrong?

  • Vent about your problems

5.    What advice do you have for young coaches who are listening to this?

  • Be cognizant of the power of the mind can have on performance

6.    What’s the darkest moment you experienced professionally and how did you overcome it?

  • He received a threatening letter about work he published. He used his chatter toolbox to overcome it

Favorite Quotes:

“We don't want to rid ourselves of negativity. What we want to do is prevent the negative thoughts from morphing into the chatter, into the negative cycle of thinking and feeling that's unproductive and never ends.”

“Rituals, we often do them with, especially in the sports context, with other other players and coaches, and they have a broader meaning, right? There's this strength, this significance. It's not about just me. It's about all of us together and when it's about the team, not just me, that makes our own concerns feel a little bit smaller. So there's a shrinking of the self that occurs when we engage in these kinds of collective rituals that are very prevalent in sports.”

“And so what I tell people is to be really deliberate about who you choose to go to for chatter support. Like, I think really carefully about this in my own life. There are lots of people who I love very much and who love me who I don't go to for help because I know they're just going to make it worse or they're not going to help. And so there are other people that I consistently go to for support and they help. So I like to think of this as you’re building a board of advisors for help in different domains that you might need it.”

“When an athlete engages in a structured ritual, that gives them a sense of control. They're putting things in a particular place, they're creating order. And that provides us with a sense of order that can be alleviating.”

“Look, negative self-talk on its own isn't a bad thing. Like, it's, I think, a good thing to be able to review your life and review the negative things so you can learn from them.”

“You know, you'll see LeBron James, there was a an incident ten years ago (“The Decision”) where he's facing a really tough decision. He says, “All right, I don't want to make an emotional decision, LeBron James got to do what is best for LeBron James.” Or you see Tiger Woods coaching himself through a difficult stroke using his name. And so a lot of people stumble on this technique, I think without really understanding how it works. We've now I figured out how it works and it's something that we can coach other people to use.”