Levels of dis-identification with your thoughts

What’s the difference between these two phrases? How do you imagine you’d feel, if someone said one of them to you? Is it different?

  1. “I notice I feel angry”
  2. “I’m angry”

Personally, I would feel a lot more comfortable with the first one. I think this is true for lots of people, particularly people who like NVC-like communication.

But, I was at one point surprised to learn, it’s not true for everyone. Some people find statements like #1 above to be annoying. I don’t have a really deep model of why, but I think it triggers a sense of beating-around-the-bush or otherwise not being frank.

I want to share the value I see in using phrases more like #1 than #2, and to place them on a spectrum rather than just having them be binary. To do that, I’m going to tell a brief story here, which is based on a true story that inspired this post.

The story of the hurt one and the hurter

Friends of mine, whose names aren’t Mitch and Lia, asked me to help them have a tough conversation at a conference we were all attending. They’d been in a romantic relationship for several months, and things were kind of shaky at that point. An incident happened where, due to some ambiguous communication and differing assumptions, Mitch basically felt like Lia had totally ditched him when they’d agreed they would have lunch together that day. Lia had seen him in a conversation with someone else and thought he looked engrossed so she didn’t want to interrupt and figured they’d reconnect in the cafeteria or whatever.

» read the rest of this entry »

A portrait of Malcolm Ocean

I'm Malcolm Ocean.

I'm trying to figure out how humans work so I can help make humanity work. More about me.

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