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:
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:
The more you can make these changes consciously the better your boundaries and your ability to connect and protect your inner child while you connect closely with safe people and connect less closely with less safe people.
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.
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:
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):
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
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.
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.
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."
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.
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 (FAKE) FEELINGS
It's very hard to communicate a feeling from the impersonal position but people often claim that's what they are doing. If there is an actual feeling behind the impersonal thought it might be for example, fear, stress hurt or anger but this is being hidden by the expression of the fake impersonal feeling.
It's not a real feeling if the words communicate a conclusion or claim that another person is largely the cause of that feeling. This is of course one of the little trauma witch’s spells that we need to undo. (I have written a separate page about how these spells are cast over the inner village - click on 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
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:
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,
CHOOSING AND USING DIFFERENT PERSONAL AND IMPERSONAL RATIOS
Obviously the most important awareness for a start is to be able to identify which particular channel you are using at any one time. The more you become are aware of the difference between personal and impersonal channels the easier this becomes. At the same time you will also become more aware of just how useful it is to have a choice between whether you use your personal and for your impersonal channels in different situations.
The next step is to develop your ability to choose ahead of time, which channel you want to use according to the kind of person you will be communicating with The more you can make these changes consciously the better your boundaries and your ability to connect and still protect your inner child when you are with less safe people. You will also strengthen your ability to protect your inner child by choosing how far you go into the personal state when you choose to connect closely with safe people.
After a while you will discover that it's useful and quite easy to use a blend of the two channels at the same time. For example you are trying to get help from someone behind a counter but they are communicating with you in a very impersonal way. Naturally, this means that you will be inclined to keep yourself in an impersonal state too, but you may find a blend of 10 percent personal and 90 percent impersonal will warm things are sufficiently to create better communication.
Working alone and one-to-one with a counsellor you may find that you connect best in a 80 percent personal 20 percent impersonal way. Working with the same counsellor but in a small group, you may find that 70 percent impersonal and 30 percent personal is the safest ratio. Experiment, try different ratios and find out which ones work best for you.
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:
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.
The Many Languages of Love Added January 15 2004
Personal and impersonal styles 2004 Added January 15 2004
Fights where inner matriarchs and inner patriarchs take over - Added January 15 2004
Feedback - please e-mail me John Bligh Nutting - at firstname.lastname@example.org
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