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Personal and Impersonal selves

Another way of looking at your opposite inner selves (and a way that is particularly relevant in all your relationships) is to compare or divide them according to their personal or impersonal nature.

I will explain more about these in later sections but as I refer to ‘personal’ and ‘impersonal’ throughout this site but an outline will help for a start.


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.

The trouble is that most times we switch automatically (unaware) and this can lead to all sorts of 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 just different.  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, learning to consciously choose 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:

Use your choice to create stronger healthier boundaries

Knowing how to make a conscious choice to stick to our Impersonal channels has another advantage. Some of our inner selves may want to connect with someone too closely when this is not really appropriate. At these times it’s useful to be aware of the motives driving these inner selves 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 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".  That is we are doing just what we need to do, to protect ourselves from getting too close to those people. 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 inner selves 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 sometimes achieve amazingly positive outcomes by switching to the personal channel with such people.)

With some people, should we get too close to them by using our personal channel 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 your personal energy. Some people just don't understand very much about how to use personal channels.

So, a quick way to remember what it's like a when we are using the impersonal channel is the phrase "more protected but less connected". The downside of this is that of course we are not going to get as close to some people as we might like to.


Whenever you use your personal channel consciously you will notice a distinct change, compared with your ordinary, everyday impersonal channel.  One important distinction between personal and impersonal channels is about how we deal with our vulnerability. Whenever we are using personal communication we are more connected but less protected.

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, for a start, meant 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, using voice dialogue I first needed 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 separate article.)

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 time.


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.


Impersonal communication is described as closed, while personal communication is described as open. When we are using our impersonal channel we keep 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 or closed conversation does not reveal much at all about what we are feeling or the person we really are. Personal or open communication is the opposite way round as the examples below will illustrate.

Typical impersonal topics in the list below are ranked with the top ones being the most impersonal and the safest. Notice that the lower you go down the list the less protected and the more connected communication becomes but it still will be quite impersonal.

Notice also how few of the topics involve anything that the people talking about have any power to change, fix or improve no matter how they feel about the topic.


  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 a kind of gauge 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 on a third party - 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 and more 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. Outwards focused on getting results – aim or need to “get” a specific reaction or response that we want, from another person – It doesn’t take much practice to feel the intention behind an 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.

Parent to child energy Typically much of an impersonal conversation like this 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 will quickly 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. It’s much harder, often impossible, for the personal player to keep off their own all too familiar  impersonal state. They soon get hooked back into it 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 something like that happened to me with my father last month.”

Kerry: “So I called her on the mobile and I told her what I thought of her!”

Kim: (trying to be more personal) “And did you get any kind of understanding from her?”

Kerry: (impersonal) “I was so mad at her I went home and deleted her name from my address book.”

Kim: (trying to be more personal) “I’ll bet you felt better after that!”

Kerry: (impersonal) “Next thing, she was knocking on my door and I stood there and I told her …….etc etc (unbroken monologue for 4 minutes …..)

Kim: (moving to impersonal) “Well it’s good to catch up with you Kim, but I have to go now and catch my train. Bye.”

More on the Impersonal selves

More on the Personal selves

See  also Personal and  impersonal styles in a relationship