CHOOSING BETWEEN PERSONAL AND IMPERSONAL CHANNELS
Everybody has a choice as to whether they communicate through their personal or impersonal channels. And everyone needs to know how to use each one at different times. It’s equally important to know when not to use each channel.
Usually we switch automatically and this can lead to problems. Or we can get stuck on one channel not knowing how to switch to the other. Learning to use both channels consciously is not difficult. There are only a few things to be aware of. The main awareness is just being able to recognise whether you (and the other person, or both of you) are using impersonal or personal channels. From there it's largely just a matter of practice, lots of practice, choosing the right channel for each occasion and consciously making the switch.
Being able to choose your channel is a great help when you want to:
* connect more closely with other human beings
* avoid connecting when you don't want to get too close (even if the other person wants to).
* protect yourself from abuse, manipulation, or negativity coming from other people who are trying to control you.
USING YOUR HEALTHY BOUNDARIES
Knowing how to make a conscious choice to stick to our Impersonal Channels has another advantage. Some of our inner villagers may want to connect with someone too closely when this is not really appropriate. At these times it’s useful to be aware of their motives and then to be able to:
* avoid getting too close to another person, if this is really not in their best interests (even if you are tempted to get closer)
* limit activity by your own inner villagers (inner selves) who might want to use their negative energy or manipulation skills to control others
When we are using our impersonal channel during everyday communication with other people we are acting quite "normally". We are doing just what we need to do, making a rational choice to protect ourselves by intentionally not getting too close. This is how it has to be for much of our everyday life. It might not be advisable to communicate in personal mode with many of the characters we meet during the day, such as people in call centres, credit managers or the police officer who pulls you up for speeding. (It's a bit risky but with experience you can you can sometimes achieve amazingly positive outcomes by switching to the personal channel with such people.)
With some people, if we used too much of our personal channel and as a result got too close to them we would be leaving ourselves open to a number of possibilities, including negative judgement, criticism or even abuse. Why? Because one reason that our personal channel works is because we use it to show and share our feelings with other people. The more we do this the more we are leaving ourselves open by revealing our vulnerability and to do that with some people is to invite them to take advantage of this.
The other reason for using impersonal communication is out of respect for others who might feel shy, uncomfortable even threatened by the closeness created by too much personal energy. Some people just don't understand very much about personal channels.
So, a quick way to remember what it's like a when we are using the impersonal channel is the upside. We are "more protected but less connected". The downside of this is that of course while we are more protected we are not going to get as close to some people as we might like to.
SWITCHING TO THE PERSONAL CHANNEL
Whenever you use your personal channel consciously you will notice a distinct change, compared with your ordinary, everyday impersonal channel. Whenever you are using personal communication you are noticeably more connected but less protected..
One important distinction between personal and impersonal channels is about how we deal with our vulnerability. When I started out doing this work I didn't even know there was such a thing as a personal channel, but I certainly knew how to use my impersonal to keep from feeling vulnerable! My starting point for my own personal channel work was learning to notice consciously when I was using my impersonal channel, which, in the beginning was all the time.
Then I had to recognise that this meant I was either:
* feeling vulnerable
* trying to avoid feeling vulnerable.
Until I was aware of my vulnerability issues I found it very hard to feel comfortable using my personal channel. So, first I had to learn how to deal with my own feelings and my own vulnerability about what I was feeling. I first needed to develop good ways to protect myself (One of the first steps was inducting my new inner father and inner mother. See also separate page on Sample Inner Father induction script .)
Having done all that I found I could then more easily communicate personally. From then on, I found it much easier (and more comfortable):
* sharing information about my emotions with another person.
* tuning in to the emotions the other person was experiencing.
Once we've tuned in to someone else's feelings it's also easier then to share what is going on inside us as a result of tuning in. At first this might be little more than acknowledging that we recognise and understand that person’s feelings. However as we develop our personal channel our empathy with that person will increase. Over time we can even learn to experience the same emotions as they are experiencing at the same time.
HOW TO BECOME MORE AWARE OF WHICH CHANNEL I AM USING
Here are some of the easier pointers that help alert you to the channel you are using at the time. Of course these same pointers help you to tell which channel the other person is using with you.
1. Quantity rather than quality. – Practice being more aware of the speed, volume and intensity of each conversation. Think of each of these three as like three gauges on your dashboard. The higher the reading on each gauge, that is the stronger the intensity, the harder the speaker is working to maintain protection rather than connection. (impersonal channel). A sufficiently strong "wall of words" can block almost any attempt to develop a personal connection.
2. Focus - the more the conversation is about "I, me and them" issues (impersonal) the less connected and the more protected because it’s obviously less about "I, you and me" issues which would require less protection but would of course lead to closer connection.
3. Imbalance – one speaker tries to get as much as they can of the available "air time" without concern for the way this reduces the other person’s share. Typically an impersonal speaker doesn’t even listen very much to what the other person is saying. They are busy thinking about what they want to say next, waiting for a chance to get back to being the speaker again. Their lack of feedback or response helps maintain a high level of impersonal contact.
4. Switching backwards and forwards between any two opposite power positions or points of view is another way to avoid getting too personally connected. Example: Kay often tells people "I am a strong willed woman. No man tells me what to do." But when Paul phones her and asks what she would like to do on Saturday night she tells him, "Whatever you decide, Paul. I don't mind." Kay is staying impersonal and protected rather than telling Paul what she would really like, dealing with any conflict that might arise and gaining the personal connection that would go with this.
5. Outwards focused intention – aiming to "get" a specific reaction or response (the response that WE want) from another person – It doesn’t take much practice to feel the intention behind any impersonal message, even if the words used suggest otherwise. Example: "Darling, I just want you to be happy. And I know this is what you really need to become the happiest person in the whole world." Personal communication is largely free of this desire to "get" things and is more likely to include "giving" freely and unconditionally.
6. Typically much of an impersonal conversation like this last example involves our getting hooked into "child-like" or "parent-like" attitudes or switching back and forth between them. If one person is too busy "telling" (impersonal parent) this automatically hooks the other person into a child-like feeling of being "told". This in turn causes that receiver to become more protective of themselves and lessens their desire to connect. So less and less time gets spent in what I like to call a "grown-up" state of mind where there might be more connecting and more "sharing". Sharing is grown-up and enhances the personal connection.
All the above pointers are more obvious if one person is trying to move over to their personal channel but the second person feels uncomfortable about this. The uncomfortable person may even increase the level of their impersonal communication to block the move.
It’s quite easy for one person to maintain their impersonal protection, even though the other wants to shift to personal. It’s much harder, often impossible, for the personal player to keep off their own all too familiar impersonal state. They all too easily get hooked back into impersonal again.
Kerry: (impersonal) " ……. so I drove all the way over to her house and when I got there she wasn’t even home!"
Kim: (trying to be more personal) "I’ll bet you felt frustrated. I know I would. I remember that happened to me with my father last month."
Kerry: "So I tried to call her on her mobile and tell her what I thought of her. But her husband answered it!"
Kim: (trying to be more personal) "And did you get any kind of explanation from him?"
Kerry: (impersonal) "I was so furious with her, I went home, sent her a really angry e-mail and deleted her name from my address book."
Kim: (still trying to be a bit personal) "And did you feel better after you did that?"
Kerry: (impersonal) "Next thing, she was knocking on my door and I opened it and I told her …….etc etc etc (Kerry continues with an unbroken monologue for 4 minutes …..)
Kim: (finally moving to her impersonal) "Well it’s good to catch up with you Kerry, but I have to go now and catch my train. Bye."
1. Pauses – One of the better indicators that the connection is getting more personal is the way both people feel comfortable with short pauses in conversation. Because they are feeling more connected there is no vulnerability in the pauses. They know that they remain connected without having to talk all the time.
2. Quality rather than quantity – topics of conversation are notably different (see lists below)
3. The gauges on your dashboard have changed. Instead of registering volume and speed they are more like a thermometer registering the degree of warmth of the personal connection.
4. Focus - the conversation is more connected and less protected because it’s largely about "I, you and me issues" (more connected, less protected).
5. Balance – each person in a relaxed way "makes time" for the other to alternately be the speaker of listener. when it is their turn to be the listener, each person uses active listening rather than just "hearing".
6. Free and unconditional "sharing" with the other person. Regardless of what is being shared (time, empathy, ideas, support, food and drink, touching, or unconditional love) the more "sharing" there is, the better the connecting.
7. More time is spent in the a "grown-up" state of mind . This enhances the warm personal connection. Why? Because the grown-up state is where we feel internally safe, secure and well protected, even while we are connecting closely with another person.
PERSONAL AND IMPERSONAL TOPICS
When we are using our impersonal channel we keep rather carefully to safe topics, that is topics of conversation that will keep the discussion safely away from anything which might bring up or even give the other person a hint as to our vulnerability. The less connected you feel, the better protected you are. So, most impersonal conversation does not even get as far as revealing much at all about what we are feeling.
Typical impersonal topics might be more about:
* impersonal objects, cars, clothing, sport, television, finance and of course the weather and politics.
* other people, particularly others who are not in the room. Also their impersonal objects their jobs, their faults, and their activities. (their sport, their finances, their politics, their cars, their clothing)
* the past rather than the present, but only those topics from the past that are safe and impersonal.
* impersonal things that I did recently or will be doing, playing sport, watching television, getting drunk, gambling, business or work-related activities.
* impersonal problems like finance, accommodation, transport, computers and my lack of time
* impersonal thoughts or ideas. For example quoting ideas from books or well known authorities. This helps to avoid expressing personal views, thoughts or feelings on the subject.
SHARING IMPERSONAL FEELINGS
There may be some feelings that we feel safe sharing on our impersonal channel. Impersonal feelings often just tell other people more about how I spend my day. They don’t tell much at all about my personal issues or who I really am or what’s going on inside me. It's more likely that they will help illustrate what I do when I connect with other people through my impersonal channel.
Example: When I was at work today I felt .......
busy, energised, successful, happy, hopeful, hurt, horny, disappointed, depressed, respected, valued, exhilarated, anxious, frustrated, angry, tired. I felt I didn't matter, I didn't feel worthwhile, I didn't feel worthwhile.
FALSE IMPERSONAL FEELINGS
With impersonal feelings it’s very easy to conclude that it is another person who is largely the cause of that particular feeling. This is of course one of the witch’s spells that we need to change. (see separate page about how these spells are cast over the inner selves. See Muddled Magic and the Little Trauma Witch
If the words "I feel" are followed by a reference to anyone else, it is an impersonal thought or prediction. "I feel that you ..." or "I feel that he ..." are thoughts or predictions. They are not feelings. Similarly, the following negative expressions are not sharing any real feeling, even an impersonal one.
Examples: "I feel that you ..(don’t care)….(are angry with me)" or "I feel that they…..(don’t like me)….(are trying to manipulate me)….(just want … xxx …from me) etc."
If there is a feeling behind the impersonal thought it might be for example, fear, stress hurt or anger but this is being hidden.
THE PERSONAL CHANNEL
As you switch to the your personal channel, (and always assuming that the other person is ready to connect with you on the same channel) the topics of the conversation change. In many ways the conversation takes on a more "grown-up" feeling. No one is getting hooked into "child-like" or "parent-like" states. What we are talking about at this time is more likely to include:
* what we really feel, both at this moment and at other times and what we think about those feelings
* who we really are, our authentic personalities, rather than the personality we project in public.
* personal issues that impact on our life and our ability to communicate, self-confidence, things we worry about all that cause us concern and discomfort, our likes and dislikes,
* the parts of our personal history we are less comfortable sharing
* our more personal feelings particularly those that we are experiencing in the present moment as we communicate with the other person. Examples: right now I am feeling joyful, loving, exhilarated, sad, emotional pain, fear, loneliness, spiritual.
When you are using your personal channel you usually ask more questions. Questions help to maintain the connected energy also keep it at an even level. As long as you are asking an open question you remain largely free of closed or "impersonal parent" activities like judging, rule-making, over-confidence or criticising,
The more two people become familiar with communicating through their personal channels, the deeper the conversation is likely to become. New areas of conversation are tried out tentatively to see if both speakers are comfortable about bringing them into the personal discussion arena.
This means that both people are developing a stronger level of intimacy. This is illustrated by the way that they now feel safer sharing details about their vulnerability. Topics which were not discussed before, might now include:
* my more personal negative feelings about myself – shame, guilt, hopelessness, worthlessness, silly or stupid, devastated
* the more vulnerable aspects of my relationships, my more vulnerable feelings, my fears, failings, faults, foolishness, fantasies, dreams and hopes for the future, my sexuality,
You can usually tell that you have reached this stage by noticing the change in the topics being discussed, however another clear sign that you will also observed is that you will often be feeling more vulnerable. It is OK (at this point) if you choose not to stay at this level for too long. It's better to back out a bit until you know that connecting at this level is safe and that you can confidently protect your own vulnerability around this level of openness.
It’s so very important that you neither expect nor ask the other person to take responsibility for protecting your vulnerability. Even if they offered to do this for you, do not allow them to take on the task because what they are offering to do is not only dangerous for both of you to try, it’s also impossible to achieve. No matter what anyone else claims they can do for you, only you can look after your own vulnerability.
The degree of intimacy that can be achieved through personal communication channels is up to you. However you will notice quite clearly signs that tell you that the intimate connection is becoming deeper and closer.
One sign in particular will be a further increase in your own sense of vulnerability, because the more connected you feel, the less protected you will be. The same warnings as above apply here about expecting the other person to protect you. Don't even think about.
At the same time you will also be experiencing the joy that we can only feel at those times when we are connecting with someone else at such a deep personal level, yet knowing that we can maintain our own sense of safety and protection at the same time.
Discussion at this point might include previously " hidden or forbidden" topics such as deep personal secrets, past events in one's history that were shameful or scary, sexual fantasies and almost anything else about which we would normally feel a bit shy or guilty sharing with another person.
Communication about sexual activity can be either personal or impersonal. If two people are lovers, then the more they feel comfortable using their personal channels to talk to each other at this level the closer they become. This also allows them to start talking about difficult or "forbidden" topics such as new and previously untried sexual activities. However, this is one of those times when it is helpful for one or both partners to remember they are free to move back to the impersonal channel if the topic becomes too stressful or embarrassing.
George and Pam, a couple who came to see me some years ago, had a disagreement around this. George claimed that because they loved each other there was ‘…. no need to talk about it. It should all just happen naturally’. Pam, on the other hand, really needed to talk about any new bedroom activity before trying it.
I agree with Pam. If you aren't comfortable discussing such things very personally with your lover, there's a fair chance that one or both of you will be even more uncomfortable trying them in real time.
Feedback - please e-mail me John Bligh Nutting - at firstname.lastname@example.org
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