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What Are You Saying Between the Lines?

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All of us have an inner dialog. When you blog, that inner message can be revealed between the lines of your articles, social media messages and forum posts.

If you are sitting there doubting what I just said, think about it for a second. That inner voice might be quiet, but it will be there.

When someone compliments you, what do you think? Do you say to yourself “You are so right!” or do you think “This is embarrassing, change the subject”. When faced with an opportunity do you think “Go for it!” or do you think “This will probably go wrong. Again.”.

The things we tell ourselves are like our mental programming, the subconscious software that manages our behavior. This inner view of the world is revealed in our writing.

My inner dialog has often been “If I managed it then it can’t have been that difficult”, which translates to an outer dialog in the form of “Anyone can do this, here is how”. While my inner thoughts are not particularly healthy, in a way it has worked for me as I break things down into systems and processes then teach other people what I have learned.

When you meet someone and start talking to them, through the stories they tell you can often get an idea of what their inner story is. They leak their imagined plot-line of their life.

Here are some examples:

  • “Despite what everyone else thought, I was proved right in the end.”
  • “Life is hard, and we are powerless, don’t ever believe otherwise.”
  • “Self-promotion is evil, people should recognize my true value without being told.”
  • “People are basically good if you would only give them a chance.”
  • “Anyone with money must have cheated or worse to get it.”
  • “You are either with me or against me.”
  • “My life is a constant test.”
  • “I am in this situation because of all of them.”
  • “Everyone else is a fraud, mine is the only authentic way.”
  • “I was put here to do great things.”
  • “People always let me down leaving me to carry the burden alone.”
  • “If it wasn’t for bad luck I wouldn’t have any luck at all.”

Listen and read, try to work out what the message behind the message is. I am sure while you think on it you can come up with more examples.

So what is the point of all this?

Measured

I am not a psychologist, I don’t even play one on television, but I am interested in people. Just looking out for these things can give you a better insight into the stories we tell ourselves and the games people play, but for anyone who works online where everything we do is pretty much on permanent record, there are a couple of important ramifications:

First of all, be aware that we all leak our inner dialog out into the world and what we say between the lines can have a profound effect on our relationships and our success (or lack of).

For example, if you are constantly complaining about people for example, don’t be surprised if friends stop helping or partnering with you. Another example would be the person who has to tell everyone he or she has a secret (between the lines “I’m in the loop, people confide in me and I am important”), but suddenly nobody shares secrets with them any longer. It might be you think you are only sharing in private, but these impressions build up over time, get shared in other channels, and are surprisingly stubborn to break.

The second part of this message is to be aware when listening to others. Listen to the intentional message along with the unintentional. Forums, conversations, twitter messages, all form a larger thread over time.

Is someone constantly sharing conspiracy links? (sense of powerlessness?) , do they start projects then quit blaming others? (no shared responsibility?). On the other hand, do they boost others? Do they share in a positive way?

These signs collected over time can give you a sense of who is a good person to team with and who might be better left to their own projects. As I have no-doubt said many times before, collaborations are a big part of any progress online and you need to make sure you are not going to be hampered before you even start.

Finally, it is possible to have a conscious between the lines message. Decide the overall theme of your blog and make each individual article reinforce that theme. As I said before, the underlying theme of everything I do is “anyone can do this”, what do you want people to take away as your lasting message?

Bottom line is awareness:

  1. Read through what you write and make your intended message clear, and be conscious of unintended messages
  2. While reading and listening, watch out to see if you can pick up any underlying themes, what are they really saying?

Do you recognize this or think I have lost my marbles? Got any examples? Think you might be leaking? How can we plug these leaks? Please share your thoughts in the comments …

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Comments

  1. I don’t think you’ve lost your marbles at all Chris. You draw out some very important points here.

    I do wonder sometimes how and why some people don’t think more about the story they’re telling through their words online – esp in places like Twitter where it maybe feels private, but certainly isn’t.

    The more positive side is that we can learn so much from our own material. I often turn to my blog for the answer to a question I’m struggling with, because I’ve probably already written the answer somewhere in there, I just need to go and ‘listen’ to what I’ve been telling myself.

    Thanks for a great post.

    Joanna

  2. I don’t think you’ve lost your marbles at all Chris. You draw out some very important points here.

    I do wonder sometimes how and why some people don’t think more about the story they’re telling through their words online – esp in places like Twitter where it maybe feels private, but certainly isn’t.

    The more positive side is that we can learn so much from our own material. I often turn to my blog for the answer to a question I’m struggling with, because I’ve probably already written the answer somewhere in there, I just need to go and ‘listen’ to what I’ve been telling myself.

    Thanks for a great post.

    Joanna

  3. That’s an interesting point Joanna, I really ought to start reading my own blog more as I bet there are a ton of things I have forgotten I have written πŸ™‚

    I love your use of Pink Floyd in your recent post BTW πŸ™‚

  4. That’s an interesting point Joanna, I really ought to start reading my own blog more as I bet there are a ton of things I have forgotten I have written πŸ™‚

    I love your use of Pink Floyd in your recent post BTW πŸ™‚

  5. One way to respond is to make our inner messages explicit – even post about them.

    As I think you hint – it is not just between the lines but between the posts: the theme of your blog and so forth.

    It’s probably easier to ask friends. Being conscious of our own process is quite difficult.

    Thanks for a very thought-provoking post.

  6. One way to respond is to make our inner messages explicit – even post about them.

    As I think you hint – it is not just between the lines but between the posts: the theme of your blog and so forth.

    It’s probably easier to ask friends. Being conscious of our own process is quite difficult.

    Thanks for a very thought-provoking post.

  7. Couldn’t agree more, Chris. Could folks be completely unaware of what they’re actually telling their readers “between the lines”? You bet! It’s like the drivers who have no clue when they pick their nose in the car; they seem to forget people can see them. Never understood that.

    Personality, outlook, hopes, dreams, attitudes – they all come out once we’ve published enough material. Makes the case for managing our own online reputations, doesn’t it? What do we want our readers to believe about us?

  8. Couldn’t agree more, Chris. Could folks be completely unaware of what they’re actually telling their readers “between the lines”? You bet! It’s like the drivers who have no clue when they pick their nose in the car; they seem to forget people can see them. Never understood that.

    Personality, outlook, hopes, dreams, attitudes – they all come out once we’ve published enough material. Makes the case for managing our own online reputations, doesn’t it? What do we want our readers to believe about us?

  9. It’s amazing just how well (and usually accurate) you can know a person by reading their blog. And it’s as you say, it’s more how they are saying what they are saying than the actual content.

  10. It’s amazing just how well (and usually accurate) you can know a person by reading their blog. And it’s as you say, it’s more how they are saying what they are saying than the actual content.

  11. @Evan – Yes, we often can’t see in our own writing what we can see in other’s. Getting a friendly eye could be the easiest route πŸ™‚

    @Robert – Absolutely, as we depend more and more on this online stuff, for careers, business and social, we will find that managing what and how we communicate becomes even more important.

    @mark – It is, and the more people output the more there is to go on too!

  12. @Evan – Yes, we often can’t see in our own writing what we can see in other’s. Getting a friendly eye could be the easiest route πŸ™‚

    @Robert – Absolutely, as we depend more and more on this online stuff, for careers, business and social, we will find that managing what and how we communicate becomes even more important.

    @mark – It is, and the more people output the more there is to go on too!

  13. Interesting stuff. It reminds me of some reading I did on Berne’s Transactional Analysis work a few years ago. Basically, the idea that there are always two layers of conversation: the overt, conscious layer (I think it’s called the social message) and the unconscious, ulterior layer (the psychological message).

    And absolutely, I think the key to managing your ulterior communication is to bring it up into conscious awareness, but that’s often easier said than done.

  14. Interesting stuff. It reminds me of some reading I did on Berne’s Transactional Analysis work a few years ago. Basically, the idea that there are always two layers of conversation: the overt, conscious layer (I think it’s called the social message) and the unconscious, ulterior layer (the psychological message).

    And absolutely, I think the key to managing your ulterior communication is to bring it up into conscious awareness, but that’s often easier said than done.

  15. I have noticed the “leaks” on my blogs over the years. Now, I make a conscious effort to stop those leaks. This has carried over into my offline life as well.

    Nice post!

  16. I have noticed the “leaks” on my blogs over the years. Now, I make a conscious effort to stop those leaks. This has carried over into my offline life as well.

    Nice post!

  17. As a self defense instructor, I teach the importance of presenting powerful body language to the world. So much can be read from a person by how they hold themselves or present themselves. Chris, as you note, the same story of your soul comes through writing. Just as it is hard for people to hide that they are uncomfortable in their own skin in public, it is also hard to hide it in writing. Same goes for negativity, big ego, or blame-shifting. I, too, wonder if people understand just how much they reveal about themselves online. I believe, however, that passion for a topic can overcome small dysfunctions. I have seen speeches by smooth-talking PR types that just can’t compare to a somewhat bumbling, but incredibly passionate, call to action. In the same way, powerful writing isn’t always polished, but I think it’s always authentic.

  18. As a self defense instructor, I teach the importance of presenting powerful body language to the world. So much can be read from a person by how they hold themselves or present themselves. Chris, as you note, the same story of your soul comes through writing. Just as it is hard for people to hide that they are uncomfortable in their own skin in public, it is also hard to hide it in writing. Same goes for negativity, big ego, or blame-shifting. I, too, wonder if people understand just how much they reveal about themselves online. I believe, however, that passion for a topic can overcome small dysfunctions. I have seen speeches by smooth-talking PR types that just can’t compare to a somewhat bumbling, but incredibly passionate, call to action. In the same way, powerful writing isn’t always polished, but I think it’s always authentic.

  19. When a person is amazed that another person can “read” them so well, it is usually because they have said one of those lines listed in your article. You’re right, they are VERY telling. Many times a person rarely needs to say anything more.

    There’s some great examples of that on my personal website, as well as some of my old Performancing entries lamenting my current state (back then). My “excuses” were more telling than my verbose (yet rather good …lol) posts.

    It is hard to swallow when you realize YOU (i.e. me) are one of those people saying those lines and realize you need to make some profound changes in order to move your “baseline” (a phrase I like to use) to a higher level.

    This often results in a person reading the self-help books of the moment (and whatever Oprah recommends). In my experience that prolonged the problem. Granted, the books give you some vague paths to follow – kind of like an Indian noticing a bent piece of grass when tracking an animal. Almost unnoticeable, but if you’re aware, you do. You still have to make some large personal decisions, educated guesses, and take action and adjust/accept to your unique situation, knowledge, and experience.

    When you get to that point it just shows, man. You’ll glow like that dude in Herman Hesse’s Siddartha.

    I rambled. My apologies.

    I really enjoyed this post Chris. I was even thinking about it on the way to a client’s office this morning. A great time to pause reflect. Thanks man!

  20. When a person is amazed that another person can “read” them so well, it is usually because they have said one of those lines listed in your article. You’re right, they are VERY telling. Many times a person rarely needs to say anything more.

    There’s some great examples of that on my personal website, as well as some of my old Performancing entries lamenting my current state (back then). My “excuses” were more telling than my verbose (yet rather good …lol) posts.

    It is hard to swallow when you realize YOU (i.e. me) are one of those people saying those lines and realize you need to make some profound changes in order to move your “baseline” (a phrase I like to use) to a higher level.

    This often results in a person reading the self-help books of the moment (and whatever Oprah recommends). In my experience that prolonged the problem. Granted, the books give you some vague paths to follow – kind of like an Indian noticing a bent piece of grass when tracking an animal. Almost unnoticeable, but if you’re aware, you do. You still have to make some large personal decisions, educated guesses, and take action and adjust/accept to your unique situation, knowledge, and experience.

    When you get to that point it just shows, man. You’ll glow like that dude in Herman Hesse’s Siddartha.

    I rambled. My apologies.

    I really enjoyed this post Chris. I was even thinking about it on the way to a client’s office this morning. A great time to pause reflect. Thanks man!

  21. Chris:

    I think what you have stated is ‘RIGHT ON THE BUTTON!!”

    I believe everything we do–have—become all originates in the MIND. All that I am today & have created in my life up to this point in time is in essence an ‘effect’ of what my brain vibrations have put out into the Universe.

    I believe a Successful person FIRST has a Successful thought & conversely a Person who has lived a life of Failure & hopelessness has ‘attracted’ that to themselves so to speak in some sense(not to say we never fail).

    That is why I believe it is SO VERY IMPORTANT to rid ourselves of the ‘Stinkin’ Thinkin’ & reprogam our minds with POSITIVE….What you put into your being(brain, Subconscious, Heart) can not help but COME OUT.

    “As a man THINKETH so IS HE!”

    Thanks for the thought Inspiring post this morning!

    The Great Matt Geib

  22. Chris:

    I think what you have stated is ‘RIGHT ON THE BUTTON!!”

    I believe everything we do–have—become all originates in the MIND. All that I am today & have created in my life up to this point in time is in essence an ‘effect’ of what my brain vibrations have put out into the Universe.

    I believe a Successful person FIRST has a Successful thought & conversely a Person who has lived a life of Failure & hopelessness has ‘attracted’ that to themselves so to speak in some sense(not to say we never fail).

    That is why I believe it is SO VERY IMPORTANT to rid ourselves of the ‘Stinkin’ Thinkin’ & reprogam our minds with POSITIVE….What you put into your being(brain, Subconscious, Heart) can not help but COME OUT.

    “As a man THINKETH so IS HE!”

    Thanks for the thought Inspiring post this morning!

    The Great Matt Geib

  23. I think this is why I was hesitant about writing products, websites and blogs. You expose so much during your writing… and not just with what you write.

    This is one reason I never write when I’m upset or mad, because I know those feeling will shine through somehow. Usually, not what I want posted to the Internet for all eternity.

    Oh no… what did I just reveal about myself?

  24. I think this is why I was hesitant about writing products, websites and blogs. You expose so much during your writing… and not just with what you write.

    This is one reason I never write when I’m upset or mad, because I know those feeling will shine through somehow. Usually, not what I want posted to the Internet for all eternity.

    Oh no… what did I just reveal about myself?

  25. Good stuff, Chris.

    So much of what I write tends to say “Freelancing is hard work and you aren’t going to make millions doing it, but it’s a good life.”

    I think the unintended message that I continually struggle with trying to correct is “Freelancing sucks. Don’t do it. It’s too hard.” There’s so much positive talk out there about the joys of freelancing that I sometimes feel the need to balance it. In the process, I feel like the negative Nelly.

    Great food for thought, Chris!

  26. Good stuff, Chris.

    So much of what I write tends to say “Freelancing is hard work and you aren’t going to make millions doing it, but it’s a good life.”

    I think the unintended message that I continually struggle with trying to correct is “Freelancing sucks. Don’t do it. It’s too hard.” There’s so much positive talk out there about the joys of freelancing that I sometimes feel the need to balance it. In the process, I feel like the negative Nelly.

    Great food for thought, Chris!

  27. Very observant, Chris. Now you’ve cottoned on to this, your conversations and communications will become much, much more interesting πŸ™‚ and we were indeed endowed with two ears and one mouth.

  28. Very observant, Chris. Now you’ve cottoned on to this, your conversations and communications will become much, much more interesting πŸ™‚ and we were indeed endowed with two ears and one mouth.

  29. @Kat – It can be tricky, and I would say many people lack the motivation to look closely at their own behavior (much more fun to pick on others, heh)

    @George – Taking this approach offline will definitely help with relationships, especially at work where people will not necessarily have the history that puts your message in context

    @SpaceAgeSage – Martial arts helped me appear more confident, and helped build my confidence from the inside. As you might imagine, I was a pretty weedy nerd at school. I wish my instructors spent more time on those confidence building aspects to be honest rather than the constant knuckle press ups and barking orders πŸ˜‰

    @Don – Ramble away, it’s good stuff πŸ™‚ And thanks, it’s nice to know when what I write gets people thinking. I was afraid this post would miss the mark!

    @Matt – I often say life is a mirror, half the time what we rail against is our own reflection

    @Edward – What you revealed was all good πŸ™‚ A number of my blogging coaching clients worry about what they should say, how much they should share. It almost always works out well. Having positive intentions is the most of it.

    @Bob – I had the same thing with “blogging is hard work and you might not make much money at it” (check out Darren and I in our book how many times we say something along those lines!” – I think if you put it across in a positive as possible way then it is fine, it’s when it is just bashing it gets to people.

    @Matthew – I have always been a people watcher, now I am even more of a people listener πŸ˜‰

  30. @Kat – It can be tricky, and I would say many people lack the motivation to look closely at their own behavior (much more fun to pick on others, heh)

    @George – Taking this approach offline will definitely help with relationships, especially at work where people will not necessarily have the history that puts your message in context

    @SpaceAgeSage – Martial arts helped me appear more confident, and helped build my confidence from the inside. As you might imagine, I was a pretty weedy nerd at school. I wish my instructors spent more time on those confidence building aspects to be honest rather than the constant knuckle press ups and barking orders πŸ˜‰

    @Don – Ramble away, it’s good stuff πŸ™‚ And thanks, it’s nice to know when what I write gets people thinking. I was afraid this post would miss the mark!

    @Matt – I often say life is a mirror, half the time what we rail against is our own reflection

    @Edward – What you revealed was all good πŸ™‚ A number of my blogging coaching clients worry about what they should say, how much they should share. It almost always works out well. Having positive intentions is the most of it.

    @Bob – I had the same thing with “blogging is hard work and you might not make much money at it” (check out Darren and I in our book how many times we say something along those lines!” – I think if you put it across in a positive as possible way then it is fine, it’s when it is just bashing it gets to people.

    @Matthew – I have always been a people watcher, now I am even more of a people listener πŸ˜‰

  31. The most important thing is, that no matter what your saying between the lines. You are honest.

  32. The most important thing is, that no matter what your saying between the lines. You are honest.

  33. Chris, I’m in the middle of a 24-part series on my blog about blogger virtues and vices. This post reminds me of doubt and fear, both of which I’ve posted about recently. The opposites are faith and courage. We cannot help but radiate according to what lurks in our minds.

  34. Chris, I’m in the middle of a 24-part series on my blog about blogger virtues and vices. This post reminds me of doubt and fear, both of which I’ve posted about recently. The opposites are faith and courage. We cannot help but radiate according to what lurks in our minds.

  35. An interesting topic. The same is true, if not more so, in face-to-face interactions, where physical signals come into play.

    I’ve moved quite a bit in my adult life, geographically and otherwise. I find myself basically in the same situations in terms of friendships, professional interactions, routines, etc. Sometimes that’s good, sometimes it’s not.

    Here’s the conclusion I’ve come to: If something isn’t going well, it very well could be the situation or another person. But if the pattern has repeated itself over time and in different contexts, then it must be me.

    In terms of blogging, it seems to be easier to control the message because we can edit ourselves. On the other hand, a writer might be more likely to reveal unintended messages because that person is completely unaware of them. If you don’t see them, you can’t edit them.

    So thanks for the reminder to be aware. What messages am I intentionally sending? What messages am I unintentionally sending? Those are big questions.

  36. An interesting topic. The same is true, if not more so, in face-to-face interactions, where physical signals come into play.

    I’ve moved quite a bit in my adult life, geographically and otherwise. I find myself basically in the same situations in terms of friendships, professional interactions, routines, etc. Sometimes that’s good, sometimes it’s not.

    Here’s the conclusion I’ve come to: If something isn’t going well, it very well could be the situation or another person. But if the pattern has repeated itself over time and in different contexts, then it must be me.

    In terms of blogging, it seems to be easier to control the message because we can edit ourselves. On the other hand, a writer might be more likely to reveal unintended messages because that person is completely unaware of them. If you don’t see them, you can’t edit them.

    So thanks for the reminder to be aware. What messages am I intentionally sending? What messages am I unintentionally sending? Those are big questions.

  37. “It’s like the drivers who have no clue when they pick their nose in the car; they seem to forget people can see them.” – what a great metaphor for this topic, Robert!

    Chris, this is an excellent post about what we write in the way we write. I definitely learned a lesson on that this past week Ò€” we have to put in more thought in the way we express ourselves in our blogs.

    Thank you for a thought-provoking entry.

  38. “It’s like the drivers who have no clue when they pick their nose in the car; they seem to forget people can see them.” – what a great metaphor for this topic, Robert!

    Chris, this is an excellent post about what we write in the way we write. I definitely learned a lesson on that this past week Ò€” we have to put in more thought in the way we express ourselves in our blogs.

    Thank you for a thought-provoking entry.

  39. hearditbefore says:

    I was searching the net to find a lecturer I heard in January this year. I could not remember the lecturer’s name, and mostly fragments of the lecture( or so I thought) So I searched in Swedish and in English, and what did I find? Well, what you have written here is almost an exact copy of the lecture I heard in Gothenburg in January. And by that I mean literally. Imagine my surprise! This is the closest thing to a miracle I’ve ever been. I think you should get in contact with Christer Olsson( yes, I found it in the end). Because this is huge! Two guys thinking the exact same thing only a few months apart! Well, not exact. Christer Olsson did not mention blogging…

  40. hearditbefore says:

    I was searching the net to find a lecturer I heard in January this year. I could not remember the lecturer’s name, and mostly fragments of the lecture( or so I thought) So I searched in Swedish and in English, and what did I find? Well, what you have written here is almost an exact copy of the lecture I heard in Gothenburg in January. And by that I mean literally. Imagine my surprise! This is the closest thing to a miracle I’ve ever been. I think you should get in contact with Christer Olsson( yes, I found it in the end). Because this is huge! Two guys thinking the exact same thing only a few months apart! Well, not exact. Christer Olsson did not mention blogging…