Intention And Intentionlity Are Different

At the heart of Neuro-Semantics we train and coach intentionality. That’s what the Intention Pattern in APG is all about. That’s also why we ask a series of meta-questions about a person’s “reason why” he or she does or wants what the person wants. Via this process, we enable a person to access a power within that can set a direction for life and control of one’s attentions. Then from a highly energized intentional stance, a person can develop a laser-beam focus for her flow or “genius” state.

Yet intention and intentionality are not the same. They differ and they actually differ significantly. For years I confused the two to such an extent at times that I even identified them as the same thing. Yet they are not. What about you? Can you clearly articulate the difference between them? To fully understand this, let’s back up to the idea of wish, then we will go to will, and after that to intention.

The following is an attempt to trace the conceptual understanding of intentionality from wish to will to intention and finally onto intentionality. I have taken this primarily from Rollo May’s development of it in his classic work, Love and Will (1969). If the process seems deep or thick, just keep reading. Later, when you get the full picture, reread this
article to pick up the more refined aspects of these distinctions. The distinctions here are specially important if you are a coach or a trainer and lead to some incredibly powerful states and experiences as you will discover.

Wish -> Want

The first question in Coaching is, What do you want? Some people don’t know what they want. They have not developed a “want.” They are not at that stage yet. So we have to begin with something that’s prior to a want, yet something which indicates that their will is engaged. Start with what interests them-their wishes. “What do you wish for?” In a chapter on “Wish and Will” (Chapter 8, Love and Will) Rollo May noted that wish comes first and that within wish is an element of meaning in it. What do you wish for? With the development of consciousness, wishes arise. A wish is not merely a push from behind or a need calling for satisfaction. Because a wish has some selectivity in it, it begins to orient you to the future.

“I am saying that there is no will without a prior wish. The wish, like all symbolic processes, has a progressive element, a reaching ahead, as well as a regressive pole, a propulsion from behind. The wish thus carries its meaning as well as its force. Its motive power lies in the conjunction of this meaning and force. We can now understand why William Lynch should hold that ‘to wish is the most human act.'” (Love and Will, p. 209)

“Will is the capacity to organize one’s self so that movement in a certain direction or toward a certain goal may take place. Wish is the imaginative playing with the possibility of some act or state occurring. … Will requires self-consciousness; ‘wish’ does not. ‘Will’ implies some possibility of either/or choice; ‘wish’ does not. ‘Wish’ gives the warmth, the content, the imagination, the child’s play, the freshness, and the richness to ‘will.’ ‘Will’ gives the self-direction, the maturity, to ‘wish.’ ‘Will’ protects ‘wish,’ permits it to continue without running risks which are too great. But without ‘wish,’ ‘will’ loses its life-blood, its vitality, and tends to expire in self-contradiction.” (215-6)

“Will enters the picture not as a denial of wish, but as an incorporation of wish on a higher level of consciousness.” (265)

We start first with wishes, although even here many people cannot go. They suffer from a denial of wishes or a rationalization of wishes. For them wishing is unrealistic and sets them up for disillusionment. So they refuse it. If you have a client like that, then explore, “Do you allow yourself to wish? To dream? To wildly imagine possibilities?”

It is the childlike ability to wish that we build up will, from there we build up intention and from there, decision and focus. So it is at that point that Rollo May says that William James identified “the central problem of will, namely, attention.” Then noting that this was a stroke of genius, he then quoted William James:

“When we analyze will with all the tools modern psychoanalysis brings us, we shall find ourselves pushed back to the level of attention or intention as the seat of will. The effort which goes into the exercise of will is really effort of attention; the strain in willing is the effort to keep the consciousness clear, i.e., the strain of keeping the attention focused.”
(Love and Will, p. 218)

For years I have been quoting and crediting this to Rollo May. Obviously I have been wrong. Apparently somewhere along the line I must have forgotten that Rollo May was quoting William James. Then one day during my early morning reading, I was re-reading Love and Will and discovered. Then to make his point, Rollo May quoted one of James’ most earthy illustrative stories about will.

“We know what it is to get out of bed on a freezing morning in a room without a fire, and how the very vital principle within us protests against the ordeal. [The scene is New England before the advent of central heating.]
Probably most persons have lain on certain mornings for an hour at a time unable to brace themselves to the resolve. We think how late we shall be, how the duties of the day will suffer; we say, ‘I must get up, this is ignominious,’ and so on. But still the warm couch feels too delicious, and the cold outside too cruel, and resolution faints away and postpones itself
again and again just as it seemed on the verge of the decisive act.

Now how do we ever get up under such circumstances? If I may generalize from my own experience, we more often than not get up without any struggle or decision at all. We suddenly find that we have got up. A fortunate lapse of consciousness occurs; we forget both the warmth and the cold; we fall into some revery connected with the day’s life, in the course of which the idea flashes across us, ‘Hollo! I must lie here no longer’ -an idea which at that lucky instant awakens no contradictory or paralyzing suggestions, and consequently produces immediately its appropriate motor effects. It was our acute consciousness of both the warmth and the cold during the period of struggle which paralyzed our activity…” (pp.218-219, original source: Principles of Psychology, 1890).

In analyzing this, Rollo May says William James jumped over the whole problem of will with his statement about the “fortunate lapse of consciousness” which enabled him to get out of bed and begin the activities of the day. So he asked, “What went on in that ‘fortunate lapse of consciousness?'” He says that if our decision is based on “luck” or “happenstance” then our house is built upon the sand. Then we have no basis for will at all. What happened in that revery? May suggestion-in that
moment the phenomenon of intentionality occurred (p. 220).

Lying in bed and engaged in the revery of the day’s activities you mobilize your attentions and wishes so that you begin to imagine doing and experiencing those activities. Then without awareness of the change of your state, you suddenly find yourself up and moving and getting yourself ready.
Here wishes and imaginations as emotional representations evoke a sense of experiencing. You are now intending-literally turning yourself toward your vision and images. You are intending an object.


When we go to an English dictionary, Webster says that the first meaning for intention is from the verb intend which means “to mean or to signify.” “I intend to do something.” It secondarily carries the meaning of purpose or design. Within “intention” is the root word tend which refers to “movement toward something, tend toward, tendency.” Here is a turning toward something.

Rollo May says that the more significant aspect of intention is its relation to meaning. When we ask, “What is the intent of the law?” we are asking about its meaning. He then added, “Meaning is an intention of the mind.
Meaning has no meaning apart from intention.” So we can think that with each act of consciousness we are tending toward something, we are turning toward something. So intention has within it, no matter how latent, some turning/ tendency/ movement toward a direction.

This fits another definition from the dictionary and the primary way the term is used in Phenomenology. Intent is the “turning of the mind toward an object.” Edmund Husserl, father of modern Phenomenology, extended the concept of intention to the whole of our knowledge by emphasizing that consciousness is always consciousness of something. “Meaning is an
intention of the mind.”

The person who first distinguished intention from intentionality was Husserl. He learned intentionality from Franz Brentano who believed that consciousness itself is defined by the fact that it intends something, that it points toward something outside itself, “it intends an object.” The intention is the turning toward something with one’s consciousness (mind)
and intentionality is what lies behind the intention and gives meaningful contents to consciousness.


That’s intention-tending toward something. From intention, Rollo May then defined intentionality as “the structure which gives meaning to experience.” Don’t confuse this with “intentions.” Intentionality is higher. It is the dimension which out-frames the intentions, it is the background framework.
Intentionality describes the higher-level capacity which you have which enables you to create the context for intentions. Intentionality provides you a way to imaginatively participate in calling out your possibilities.
This capacity comes out of your awareness by which you can form, mold, and change yourself and the future in relation to each other.

Intentionality lies at the heart of consciousness itself. At a preliminary stage of intentionality, intentions determine how you perceive the world. After all, the intention you bring to something governs how you will perceive it. Because when you have an intention you are “turning your attention toward something,” your perception is directed by your intentionality- your capacity for intention.

Suppose you are going to see a house in the mountains. If your intention is to look for a place to rent for the summer months, you will view it to see if it is well built, gets enough sun, will work for your vacation time. If your intention is that of a real-estate investor, you will view it in terms of what needs to be fixed, how it can be priced attractively higher than the cost so you can make a profit. If you are visiting a friend, you will view it with the eyes of seeing it in terms of friendship and hospitality – open patio, easy chairs for afternoon talk.

When you cannot see an obvious thing, there is probably nothing wrong with your eyes or even your mind. You cannot see it because the intentionality in which you are trapped makes it impossible for you to see it. This is why, when you are learning NLP structures, you often cannot see the processes due to the story that you get caught up in. Until your intentionality changes, your perceptions will be stuck. Yet change your intentionality and a whole new vista of possibilities will open up.

Intention and Intentionality

If intentionality is used as a means for knowing reality, as an epistemology, then to intend an object, to turn your mind to it, is to know that object regarding its meaning (significance). Of course, by the meaning you bring to it. You know it in terms of the intentional concepts that you bring to the object. Your “knowledge” is informed by your intentions.

Thomas Aquinas said that intentionality is what “the intellect grasps about the thing understood.” Yet what your intellect grasps is also what your intellect seeks to find. It is not clean or objective -it cannot be. “What are you looking for? “What are you expecting?”

Intentionality as your capacity to set intentions is also your personal epistemology- your way of knowing your reality-knowing its objects and its meanings. From there you set intentions so you can then carry that the meaning of reality as you have come know it. (May, p. 223). In this, the objects of your intention conform to your way of understanding
(intentionality). It fits! It always fits and that can be the problem. Here we see your mind as an active forming and creative participant in what you come to know.

Intentions can be conscious or unconscious. Psychoanalysis has demonstrated that we never have a purely conscious intention, but also unconscious intentions.

Intention is a psychological state. With an intention, you can get yourself to voluntarily do this or that. Your intentions formulate your purpose and agenda. Why are you doing this or that? Your purpose is what you get out of doing something.

State of Being

Intentionality is a being-state rather than a psychological state. It is the framework for both conscious and unconscious intentions. It is the meaning frame from which intentions arise. It is a state of being, that is, it is the totality of your orientation to the world at a given time. Intentionality occurs in the back of the mind, as a level above your
immediate awareness and is often outside conscious awareness. As a form of epistemology, intentionality establishes your response-style, which is not purpose per se. However, it is the basis which makes your purposes possible.

You participate in forming the future by your capacity to respond to new possibilities and to make them actual. You do that by tending toward them and intending them- this activates your neurological energies-wishes, imaginations, emotions.

“Intentionality in human experience, is what underlies will and decision. It is not only prior to will and decision, but makes them possible.” (199)

Intentionality and the Human Powers

Intentionality then refers to your capacity to stretch forward which, in turn, creates tendency and even tension. As an this inner matrix of your meaning-making powers intentionality mobilizes many other critically important experiences, namely, vitality, courage, care, potentiality, identity, anxiety, and motivation. All of these are also derived from intentionality.

First, vitality. “Man’s vitality is as great as his intentionality; they are interdependent. … Vitality is the power of creating beyond oneself without losing oneself.” (242).

Second, care. The root word “tend” which literally means “to take care of” establishes the close relationship between caring and intentionality. When you care about something or someone, then life matters! Heidegger, another Phenomenologist, says care is the source of will. If I care about being, I will shepherd it with attention to its welfare.

“Care is a particular type of intentionality … ‘intentionality’ and ‘care’ lies in the literal term ‘tend,’ which is both the root of intentionality and the meaning of care. Tend means a tendency, in inclination, a throwing of one’s weight on a given side…” (289)

Third, courage. “The degree of one’s intentionality can be seen by the degree of one’s courage.” (243). Courage also arises from intentionality and, in fact, the stronger your intentionality, the more robust your courage
to pursue your highest values and visions. Need more courage? Try more intentionality.

Fourth, potentials. The degree of intentionality defines your aliveness and the potential of your commitment to a cause, that is, your capacity to respond. The Latin stem is intendeze which literally means “to stretch.”
>From this we get our word “tension.” Intention then is a “stretching” toward something.

“Imagine is the house of intentionality and fantasy one of its languages. … fantasy in its original meaning of … ‘able to represent,’ ‘to make visible.’ Fantasy is the language of the total self, communicating, offering itself, trying on for size.” (278)

Fifth, identity. In intentionality you experience your identity. “I” is the “I” of “I can…” “I will…” “I choose…” You experience your identity in the action, or the possibility of making something actual that you intend. Consequently, to experience more of your identity and your sense of self in a more robust and grounded way, use more of your
intentionality. Not only does it develop your courage, but also your very self.

Sixth, Anxiety. Kierkegaard says that the intermediate variable between potentiality and actuality is anxiety. Anxiety creates energy within you to act, to move, and to respond. It may have the feel of fear, but it lacks an
object that it may be afraid of. It may have the feel of excitement, yet again, without a specific object for the excitement.

“Normal, constructive anxiety goes with becoming aware of and assuming one’s potentialities. Intentionality is the constructive use of normal anxiety.
If I can have some expectations and possibilities of acting on my powers, I move ahead. But if the anxiety becomes overwhelming, then the possibilities for action are blotted out.” (242)

Seven, Motivation. Intentionality is also related to the intensity of an experience, that is, to how you experience aliveness in the experience. We call this aliveness or vitality- motivation.

“The degree of intentionality can define the aliveness of the person, the potential degree of commitment, and his capacity…” (243)

Coaching the Clarification of Intentionality

Rollo May, as a Psychologist and Psychotherapist, says that in therapy the real battlefield lies “in clarifying the intentionality of the patient. … it shifts the struggle to one between authentic fulfillment and non-fulfillment. … my task is to be conscious of what the intentionality of the patient is in the particular session.”

Now isn’t that also true in Coaching? Yes! When you coach, you are facilitating the authentic fulfilment of a client by tapping into his or her deepest and highest intentionality. So you ask the series of meta-questions about intentions. This activates the person’s intentionality.

“What is your highest intention? Is it healthy? Are you fulfilling your best intentions? Is this your life’s center? If you don’t know what you want, what do you think you want? What would you like to want? Why did you come here today? Above and beyond your goals and objectives, what do you care about?”

Your consciousness is a consciousness about what you perceive and what you want. In this your meanings and your intentionality are complementary aspects of your “will to meaning.” And that is one thing that makes you uniquely human. So start with your wishes and let them become what you will and then empower them with the power of your intentionality as your daily intentions set the direction of your life.

~ Article co-written by L. Michael Hall PhD and Shawn Dwyer ~

Do you want more intentionality? See Accessing Personal Genius, sometimes called Self Leadership here

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Name Calling Shuts Down Healthy Thinking

Name Calling Shuts Down Healthy Thinking

Primitive Thinking that Shuts Thinking Down

All politicians all do it. At least, I can’t think of a single politician who doesn’t do it. Yet in name-calling, they are actually practicing a very primitive form of thinking. Rather it is one that is appropriate for a seven-year old or maybe a 13-year old, but not for an adult. Actually, it is a form of pseudo-thinking that shuts down healthy thinking.

Now there’s a particular kind of name-calling that Donald Trump does. I never liked it, yet it was often funny, and sometimes incredibly entertaining. And what would you expect from a successful TV entertainer and producer (The Apprentice) or from a successful business man who knows how to establish a brand (the Trump Brand)? Mostly during the campaign, he gave names to his opponents, names that typically stuck: lying Ted, crooked Hillary, Pocahontas, etc. This simple kind of name-calling strikes me as what young children do, sometimes for play, sometimes to torment other children. And it also stops thinking. Hence once you label someone in that way, the conversation is over.

Name Calling With Judgment- A Fact Or Only Fiction

A more insidious form of name-calling is making a judgment about someone and then presenting that judgment as if it was a fact. As a result this is what many of the Democrats do in response to Trump. They make a judgment that he is unfit to be president or is mentally deranged or something else and then they use those terms to describe him. While it is also name-calling, it is more hidden. Once they describe him with their judgment terms they do not own that it is their judgment. They try to sneak it in as a fact.

Descriptive and Evaluative Information

Much as this form of name-calling confuses two levels of information- descriptive and evaluative. Yet when a person cannot make this distinction, that person can never be a professional communicator. Also you can find that statement over and over in the early NLP literature and it was made to introduce the importance of sorting out what is sensory-based (see, hear, feel, etc.) as a description. A description that is empirical versus those that are evaluative based. The first set of descriptions use the sensory predicates.
The second set use the Meta-Model distinctions that are ill-formed– unspecified nouns and verbs, nominalizations, lost performatives, universal quantifiers, etc.

Descriptive Language Predicates

Descriptive language can be immediately tested because it is empirical and available to your eyes and ears. Evaluative language cannot be seen or heard. And it is an evaluation by someone using some values, criteria, and standards. So when you use evaluative language, you are engaged in a high-level and subtle form of name-calling. “You are rude.” “She is very gracious.” “He is hateful.” “She is a racist.” “They are blind to their prejudices.”

And all of that is just name-calling. Hence it is using and imposing evaluative judgments on someone. All that it accomplishes is to prejudice people against someone that the person doesn’t like. To the question as to why someone thinks, say, or does what they do, this is the answer. Consequently it gives people an answer and thereby enables them to stop thinking. It fallaciously “explains” the person’s actions that they dislike. So this kind of name-calling offers a false answer that shuts down further inquiry.

Name-calling confuses map with territory.

The word (as a map) is then assumed to be the real thing (the territory). It is as if the word is the reality. In addition, the strange thing about this is that if the person reacts to this name-calling by vehemently reacting- that very reaction then encourages more name-calling. Whilst the reactiveness fuels the person doing the name-calling because it works in that if it galls the person, upsets him, and “gets” him.

So it is stereotypical thinking that feeds name-calling. We make a judgment about someone based on a stereotype about some classification assuming that “everybody in the class is essentially the same.” Furthermore, that stops any fresh thinking that considers the person based on his or her uniqueness. Malcolm Gladwell spoke of this in his book, Blink (2005) by quoting psychologist Keith Payne:

“When we make a split-second decision, we are really vulnerable to being guided by our stereotypes and prejudices, even ones we may not necessarily endorse or believe. (P. 223)

Reframing Effects

Therefore this map-territory confusion can seem “magical.” Because we don’t question the name calling, we take it as real. It is a negative form of reframing.
While reframing puts a positive spin and meaning on what we would normally find challenging, name-calling puts a negative spin and meaning on what we might otherwise value. In this way, name-calling creates dis-value as it attempts to set a negative anchor.

Finally, the next time you hear name-calling, whether it is overtly in the way Trump does it or more covertly as others do it- remember it is designed to stop thinking and to make robust inquisitive thinking in short supply.

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By Shawn Dwyer
How does NLP and other constructionism models specifically ‘inform’ the Meta-Coach System with recognised application? As a Neuro-Semantic Trainer how do you use other approaches that informs your training content?
Are you a confident Neuro-Semantic Trainer able to succinctly communicate to your participants the evolutionary background of the Meta-Coaching System?
The article below is from the original work by Dr Suzie Linder-Perlz. Full credit is given to Dr Suzie Linder-Perlz for the references provided.
This article’s purpose has been slightly adjusted from the original article written by Dr Suzie Linder-Perlz’(the original purpose was for career coaching). My purpose as a fellow Neuro-Semantic Trainer is using Dr Susie Linder-Perlz article for defining how Meta-Coaching has been ‘in-formed’ by previous models and theory. Can you imagine where you can inform Meta-Coaching accurately? I would love to see your learnings of what informs you!

NLP and General Semantics

NLP (Neuro-linguistic programming) is a communication model; it is about the internal representation of experience and how people communicate with themselves as well as others. In the field if general semantics Korzybski (1933/94) articulated an explanatory model of the human mind-body system comprising many interactive parts: mind (meaning, semantics), body (neurology), emotions, and beliefs. This was the beginning of the NLP model.
Korzybski also explained how humans create their unique cognitive ‘maps’ of the external world they encounter. Michael Hall explained ‘emotion’ as the registering somatically of the difference between our maps of the world and our experience of it. People construct meanings in their mind and package them in symbols (words), share them and embody them. Words work in their neurology to create emotional states and induce them into various mind-body-emotion experiences O’Connor and Seymour 1990, Bolstad 2004).
NLP (and later the Neuro-Semantic models) are partly based on the same cognitive behavioural approaches that informed social cognitive theory, cognitive counselling and the solution-focused approach.

Person Centred

Philosophically, NLP came from person-centred psychology Rogers 1961 and Glasser 1965. Based on his scientific and psychometric research, Rogers concluded that people have a basically positive direction, are self-directing and autonomous; he talked of “self-regulatory activities”. Change was about “loosening cognitive maps”. He also linked thoughts, feelings, experiences and physiology to the change process. Rogers’ idea that helpful therapeutic relationships required reflective listening, empathy and separateness of self under lie NLP practitioner skills (such as state management and rapport-building through calibration of representational systems, matching and mirroring language predicates, pacing and leading) as well as traditional approaches to helping skills that emphasize qualities such as congruence, empathy and positive regard (Egan 1975).

Cognitive Theory

Cognitive theory—first as RET (Relational Emotional Therapy – Ellis 1962)— focused on ‘thoughts’ as primary in driving human experience. Later, REBT (relational Emotional Behaviour Therapy – Ellis and Harper 1975) suggested that thoughts are revealed primarily as words, self-talk statement, and beliefs. How we think affects how we feel which in turn affects how we behave (Ellis and Harper 1975; Beck, Rush, Shaw and Emery 1979). Cognitive reframing and challenging self-talk are used in RET and REBT. NLP also draws from reality theory and learning theory regarding the need for positive and negative reinforcement, setting goals, contract negotiation and not ‘failing’ people.
NLP and cognitive behaviour counselling both draw on self-efficacy theory (Bandura 1986) and his cognitive learning theory regarding the quadratic reciprocity of four domains of human experience: thoughts, feelings, behaviour and situation (Bandura 1977). The motivational power of goal-setting (Latham and Locke 1991, Locke 1996, Hesketh 1997) is a central assumption in NLP as in other cognitive behaviour approaches (Grant 2001, Grant and Greene 2001).


Like narrative therapy and solution-focused brief therapy, NLP and Neuro-Semantics belong philosophically to the discipline to constructivism (Korzybski,1933/1994; Miller 1956; Bateson 1972; Walsh, Craik and Price 1992; Watlzawick, 1974; Weakland, Fisch, Jackson and Watlzawick,1974). A key NLP presupposition is that people construct their maps and models of the world because they do not deal with ‘the territory’ (reality) directly (Bandler and Grinder (1975).

The TOTE Model

The TOTE model of self-regulation (Miller, Gallanter and Pribam 1960) informed the work of Bandler and Grinder that lead to the Strategy Model in NLP, just as it informed the work of others studying the regulation of learning and behaviour (Carver and Scheier 1998).

Solution Focused

Both NLP and the solution-focused approaches (de Shazar 1988; de Shazar 1994) were informed by cognitive therapy (Beck 1976) and Erickson’ s Strategic Therapy (Zeig 1994, Battino and South 1999). Both NLP and solution-focused approaches are constructivist and humanistic, sharing a focus collaboration, feedback, finding out what works and what doesn’t, focus on solutions and resources, precision questioning, visualising a preferred future, step back and notice the problem is the problem.
To these shared assumptions, philosophy and techniques, NLP added the focus on internal representation systems and the language processes that help clients change those internal representations and physiology in order to change emotional states and behaviours.


In summary, this is not all of the elementary inclusions that ‘inform’ the initial Meta-Coaching System, yet we can now view how Meta-Coaching transcends and includes an extensive volume of recognised psychology, knowledge, constructionism and theory including General Semantics, Narrative Therapy, Relational Emotional Behaviour Theory, Reality Theory, Learning Theory, Cognitive Theory, Strategic Theory, Type Theory, and the NLP communication model.
How will you inform your participants with this in-formation?

Interested in a coaching conversation? contact us here
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Thick Conversations – A challenge to clarity

Thick Conversations – A challenge to clarity

~ Article written by L. Michael Hall PhD ~
When I listen to some conversations, they seem and feel thick. It is not only difficult to have some conversations due to the assumptions that are built within them and the unpredictability of words, conversations can be difficult due to the density of words. Here is another language problem that makes conversations difficult, namely-

The Density Of Language

This refers to the fact that some words and some phrases are exceptionally dense. The density or compactness within some words make it very difficult to unpack the meaning and to understand. Density arise from how words can carry a heavy load of ideas. That is, a lot of thoughts, a multitude of ideas, and multiple levels of meanings can be packed into a single word or phrase.

Compressed Meaning

Horne Tooke (1832) discovered and wrote about this fact regarding language back in the nineteenth century. What he wrote about was the structural parts of language- the prepositions, conjunctions, prefixes, suffixes, etc.
He noted that these parts of language, which once referred to full-fledged, ideas are whittled down to little symbols.

Condensation and Abbreviation

Furthermore Tooke said that over the centuries, through a continuous process of condensation and abbreviation, people cram more and more meaning into fewer and fewer words. What once took a whole sentence or a clause to express, came to be compressed it into a single word or phrase. He talked about language as “full of clever devices that make for more and more speed.” “A single participle or complex word can take the place of a cumbersome word-combination.” (p. 132).

Abstractions And Density

To illustrate, he used radioactivity as an example. “Most of the long, complex words in modern prose are not labels for things in the world around us – like radioactivity- but condensed expressions of abstract ideas that can be expressed just as well in two or more shorter words.” (135)

Here’s A Contemporary Example

A statement that was issued from the Veterans Administration. While it sounds like legalese, it is a description to employees about their compensation. How clear are you about the message that someone is trying to communicate?

“The non-compensable evaluation heretofore assigned you for your service-connected disability is confirmed and continued.”

Now try to discern the meaning in that one! The trouble is that the thoughts are bunched together in tight little bundles like “non-compensable’ or ‘service-connected.’ Talk about dense and compact! Yes, lawyers tend to write that way, politicians talk that way, and so do people who think in general or global ways. Here are some things I’ve heard in coaching-

“I really want to achieve success in my assertiveness when I speak with my colleagues and confirm the union of our joint commitment.”

Getting into the serenity of the present will give me more flow for a benevolence of connecting that I haven’t had in the past.

Difficult To Understand

If there is any language form that is dense it is nominalizations and when a person speaks with multiple nominalizations, the density of the sentences makes understanding and comprehension increasingly difficult.

“Threats to my self-esteem have been destructive to my relationship and needs to be corrected.”

Furthermore the italicized words are nominalizations– verbs that have been reformulated into nouns. But they are pseudo-names. It is not really “a person, place, or thing.” Yet it is a process and set of actions that are coded as if it were a thing. But it is not. So the person is either threatening himself or receiving a threat from someone that he is interpreting as against his process of esteeming (appraising) himself of value and he is saying that this process is destroying how he relates to someone. That brings up lots of questions:
Who or what is threatening? What is the threat? Is it legitimate or just words?
How are you valuing yourself as a person? Are you doing this conditionally or unconditionally? What criteria are you using in this appraisal that you are making?
When you hear the threat, how is that related to the valuing or dis-valuing yourself as having value? How are you using it to destroy how you relate?
Who are you relating to? How are you relating? How does you’re accepting of the threat to destroy your value?

Density! Compactness.

Some words and phrases are really loaded and have to be unloaded. Most noteworthy is the conversation cannot really continue unless we take time to unpack the meaning to actually understand what someone is saying.


Take the word “truth” for another example. Originally it meant, “that which is trowed.” And “to trow” meant to think, to believe firmly, to be thoroughly persuaded of. Implied within the term “truth” is the assumption that some person is thinking or believing something or thoroughly persuaded of. But what? What is the person thinking or believing? And who? Who is doing the thinking?


Finally, we have to unpack and that’s one of the functions of all conversations. We unpack from each other what the other person means by the words and gestures he is using.
Learn how to unpack words through Coaching Essentials, delivered regularly at The Coaching Centre

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