slide show
Latest Blog Entries




“Personalization” means communicating in ways that affirm what makes us human.  It means, first, taking in—listening for, noticing, paying attention to, encouraging, probing—relevant parts of the five qualities that make us human.  Second, it means giving out—expressing, talking about, disclosing, writing about, sharing—relevant parts of the five qualities that make us human.  Taking in and giving out.  Listening and speaking.  This is how you can reduce depersonalization in your life.

What Makes Us Human?

            The five qualities make each of us a human being are

  • ·      Uniqueness
  • ·      Responsiveness (the ability to choose)
  • ·      Emotions (and other unmeasurable parts like “spirit,” “psyche,” or “soul”)
  • ·      Reflectiveness (the ability to have second thoughts, question our actions, be aware of our               awareness)
  • ·      Mindfulness (the ability to “be here now.”)


Except for identical twins, no two persons have the same genetic makeup, the same DNA.  And everybody who’s known identical twins has witnessed how much one twin is different from the other.  For better and for worse, there is only one you, and only one me.  Your uniqueness might be most obvious in your hair style, your exercise habits, your food preferences, or your political beliefs.  I know only one woman who actually owns—and regularly wears—over 350 pairs of shoes.  I know only one ex-Marine drill sergeant who is a nationally-known scholar and could do 50 pushups when he was 60.  I know only one young man who lost 70 lbs., is a Level I Crossfit Trainer, has a full, red beard, and loves the color orange.  I’ve heard of only one enormously wealthy man who is pro-choice, strongly favors same-sex marriage, and gives huge sums of money to help elect Tea Party candidates.  Each of us is unique.

Communication that ignores uniqueness is depersonalizing.  Listening and talking that acknowledges relevant parts of the people’s uniqueness is much more personal.  You can get uniqueness on the table by listening for it—“What do you really think about the plan the company just announced?”  “Have you had any personal experience with this?”  “What happened the last time you were there?”  You can also get uniqueness on the table by “giving it out”—“I’m frustrated that we’re still talking about this and haven’t actually done anything about it.”  “I’m really excited because our grandkids will be here this weekend!”  “This doesn’t feel right to me.”  “I believe I’m called to do this.”

Whenever you want your communicating to be as personal as possible, take in and give out relevant parts of your own and the other people’s uniqueness.  Each of the remaining four qualities can be part of this effort.


A reaction is automatic, habitual, knee-jerk.  A response results from a choice.  When somebody shouts at you, if you automatically shout back, you’re reacting.  If you stop, count to ten, and ask or say something that might help rather than hurt, you’re responding. 

Habits can make it hard to respond rather than just reacting.  Whenever she feels bad, it’s Charles’ habit to say, “It’ll be all right,” or “Don’t worry.”  Whenever he asks for money, dad says, “Earn it yourself.”  Whenever she asks how she looks, it’s just his habit to say, “Fine, great.”  Or our habit is to say nothing in the morning until we have a cup of coffee.   Or to check social media every couple of hours.  Or always to give candy.

The need to protect our own ego can also make it difficult to respond rather than react.  When questioned or challenged, we immediately insist we are “just following orders,” or “doing it the way it’s always been done.”  When criticized, we quickly claim that we did it right.  When asked a question, we give a standard answer rather than one that fully considers the unique situation or context.  Defensiveness is almost always a reaction.

One main way to get responsiveness on the table is by “owning” your thoughts and feelings.  Be aware of and own your preferences, decisions, and choices about the topic and the situation.  Encourage the other person(s) to do the same.  This can be really simple: “I really don’t want to go in this direction.  Do you?”  “When I haven’t met the customer before, I’d rather invite him for coffee or drinks rather than lunch.  What’s your preference?”  “I know what the company policy has been, but I’d rather Skype or teleconference than email.”  “I’ve heard that’s animated, and I’d rather see sci-fi.  What do you want to see?

 Whenever you want your communicating to be as personal as possible, take in and give out relevant parts of your own and the other person’s choices.

Part 3 will talk about taking in and giving out Emotions-Spirit-Psyche, Reflectiveness, and Mindfulness.  These ideas are fleshed out more fully in Chapter 2 of U&ME: Communicating in Moments that Matter.


PrintView Printer Friendly Version

EmailEmail Article to Friend