Using Emotion Nouns
in Eye-Zen English
|The root practice in the Eye-Zen English set of principles for problem-solving conversation is the
IHXEN I-statement, “I have ‘X emotion’ now”, in which we deliberately simplify our self-expression
by choosing a noun phrase, ‘X emotion’, that we believe honestly represents the key quality of
the energy then priming our mindbody/bodymind process. We do this in moments of challenge
because we want to avoid any fuller verbalization of what, in such a moment, is animating us,
because that might introduce either inaccuracy, disconnection in the problem-solving process, or
danger. By resorting (in buddhist language, taking refuge in) to such an IHXEN statement, we:
We are all 'swimming' in the particular psycho-cultural currents of habit of the 21st Century world
of 'normative' English. This means that the IHXEN root practice does not feel normal to us, which
is a discouraging reality for many. The 'normal' (i.e. predominant) way, currently in our culture, of
expressing an emotion is by means of the "I am 'X adjectival phrase" format, IAXAP (which, for
convenience can be pronounced 'Eye-Ax-Up'). Unfortunately, the IAXAP format has several
disadvantage when problem-solving is required: its usage programs our brains to connect
synapses involving 'I associations' involving the word 'am' -- with the consequence that IAXAPs
such as 'I am afraid' become our senses of identity until we find the equanimity to root our
identities more deeply in what ancient sages such as the Buddha (and also modern meditator-
neuroscientists such as Rick Hanson, author of "Buddha's Brain", believe to be our essences
rather than temporary "I am ..." identities. This habit (one of which trend-setters in English first
began to become free in the court of Henry V but from which in recent years the culture has
seriously regressed), impairs our brain's ability and efficiency to help us, over the course of an
episode of conversation to express what we truly know, rather than what we temporarily
believe. Thus it has serious negative consequences for our capacities to solve challenging
problems by means of contemporary conversational usages of English.
In the face of such potentials for disaster, the Chant engagement, among others, shows that by
exchanging revelations of the "I have 'X emotion' now" format, IHXENs, instead of presenting
IAXAP assertions to each other, we can improve our abilities to communicate accurately in the
tense moments of conversations related to 'must-solve' problems. Unfortunately, this gain in
problem-solving capacity -- one available in any subject field -- cannot come about without
participants in the conversation developing a much larger than normal vocabulary of emotion
nouns is only available to us if we are willing to try what initially feels abnormal, an IHXEN. But the
feeling of abnormality diminishes when we acquire a list of emotion nouns that practice of IHXENs
require. The following list is therefore offered to people interested in using 'Eye-Zen' English for
|Visits to this URL: 548 Latest Update: 140904
|Problem Solving Conversation
Facilitated by 'Eye-Zen English':
Psycho-linguistic Search for Equanimity Yields
the Accuracy to 'Make the Difference Needed'
(c) 2007-2014 by
Principal, Authentix Coaches
An investment in 'Eye-Zen English' proficiency by an Authentix Coaches' client always
has an excellent return for all participants. For example, an investment of under
$30,000, plus perhaps $50,000 to $80,000 in internal opportunity costs, resulted in
recovery for our client organization of an outstanding receivable of $10,000,000 that had
been threatening their survival for 3 years. It also led to a spectacularly successful
launch of an Employee Share Ownership Program, which not only generated much good
will between the founder/owner, his employees, and their overdue client but also set the
stage for a cooperative future. In addition, their coach was able to validate Eye-Zen
English principles of problem-solving conversation as a pathway for spreading economic
equity in a carelessly materialistic larger world.
| * * *
The schematic/logo below illustrates the architecture of how Eye-Zen English principles for
problem-solving and needs-meeting conversation are a synthesis of prior psycho-linguistic disciplines.
Click on it for a brief overview of these principles:
|A. Gain the relief of verbalizing something honest. This action, neuroscientists
confirm, does provide us meaningful relief in moments of tension
B. Avoid -- if we happened to have thought or felt more deeply on a particular
issue than others in the conversation -- either suffering suspicion of inauthenticity
in the minds of our interlocutor(s) or burdening them, at such a moment, with a
fuller expression of ourselves. Email the author for an elaboration of this reality
C. Become more conscious, through the effort required to formulate an honest
IHXEN, of the energy then priming us. This helps us either to identify a recurring
(and therefore somewhat unpresent mood, which is heralded by discovering that
we are having to use the same emotion noun over and over again) or to become
aware of questions requiring additional information than what first came to mind.
Chant Construction, a hydro-electric dam-building company with 45 employees, had been owed nearly
$10 million for over three years by a ‘well-heeled’ client, an electricity utility. Not surprisingly Ted
Chant, its chief executive and sole owner and its founder 7 years before, felt furious, and also alarmed
because this unpaid debt was holding up launch of the Employee Share Ownership Plan he had long
promised his employees. Although he had learned to keep these strong emotions in check, Ted knew
they were adversely affecting his decision-making. So, when Bill Lewis, a consulting broker, introduced
him in 2006 to the author (whom Bill knew had done good work in similar circumstances with other
clients), Ted was intrigued.
We began with an interview involving Ted's director of human resources, Gayle Suderman, following
which I prepared a substantial 7-section proposal that laid out a trade-off between desired outcome
and investment by the client. Ted and I then reviewed this proposal and refined it into a firm contract.
We then started weekly 2-3 hour coaching sessions, over the course of which Ted described the
circumstances he faced and I encouraged him, by modelling for him the "I have X emotion now” form
of I-statement (IHXEN, acronym pronounced 'Eye-Zen' for convenience), to make his descriptions as
accurate as possible, and also increasingly detailed.
The IHXEN form of I-statement is a very rarely used form but, because it is also the focus of this
narrative, many readers will want to know at least some of the theory supporting the use of IHXENs
rather than the more usual form of I-statement in English, which is the "I am 'X adjectival phrase'"
(IAXAP) form. I have therefore provided in the narrative following the briefest possible summary of the
theory that supports IHXEN use in problem-solving conversations, and also provided a link to a psycho-
linguistic comparison of the IHXEN and IAXAP forms. Further discussion of the IHXEN form is available
in the menu item "Overview of Eye-Zen English", which appears at the end of this narrative. Also,
because uses of the word 'equanimity' are often vague, readers may also want, before continuing to
read this narrative of a process facilitated by IHXENs that culminates in shared equanimity, to review a
link that describes in practical detail how I use this word. (The link is short and has a return to this
page near its end).
Ted, an engineer by profession, had held, before founding Chant, a very senior executive position for a
large and very well-known construction firm. After observing my modelling of the shift from IAXAP to
IHXEN forms of I-statement, Ted quickly appreciated its advantages in avoiding the inaccuracies into
which IAXAPs so often trap us unwittingly -- particularly blaming people, whether self or others,
unnecessarily. Together, whenever in our weekly coaching sessions either of us experienced a moment
of anxiety as to the verity of what either of us was saying, we practised IHXEN exchanges.
(Articulating IHXENs also helps -- in the language of Daniel Kahneman's 2011 book "Thinking, Fast and
Slow" -- our 'System Two' neurological resources refine the outputs passed automatically to them by
our 'System One' resources and also to influence, deliberately, development of our 'System One').
The practice of IHXEN exchanges not only helped Ted and me to make our relationship, through
exchange of non-normal self-revelations, a progressively more deeply trusting one. It also empowered
us to surface for discussion and clarification many intuitions and memories that, in conventional
problem-solving conversation, would have been considered either irrelevant or inappropriate, on a
'business context'. This allowed us to drew extraordinarily nuanced hypotheses of relevance to our
naturally intense interest in collecting the outstanding debt, and to testing these hypotheses for
accuracy as best we could. Our testing was by reference either to whatever actual data was available to
us or to assumptions with which we both (after first expressing IHXENs to label our emotions about
them and then exploring the feelings we each had related thereto) felt very comfortable. In this way
we progressively refines our thinking into what seemed to both of us to be reliable insight relative to
finding a solution to the enterprise survival problem that the overdue receivable constituted for Chant.
Ted – as the testimonial at the end of this page confirms – found these sessions cleared and grounded
As our ease with the practice of IHXEN exchanges grew, Ted and I shifted our attentions to drafting
and refining an email aimed at interesting the utility's president in meeting Ted; and Ted soon felt
enough confidence in this process to instruct the lawyer with whom he was working on the legal side of
the issues not to initiate any further activity on the utility file – an action we both felt would go some
way toward lessening the tensions that naturally lay between Chant and its debtor. At the same time,
Ted gained enough trust in me to ask that I work with his corporate staff to see if we could feel
comfortable proposing his Employee Share Ownership Plan (ESOP) in advance of the next annual
general meeting, which was scheduled a couple of months ahead.
The ESOP was a major part of Ted’s founding vision for the company. It was now a project on which
he and staff headed by Finance Director Ron Robinson had been working with an ESOP consultant for
two years. But, pending a satisfactory resolution of the outstanding utility receivable, no one had felt
comfortable proposing to Chant employees at large the specifics of what had earlier been agreed by the
ESOP consultant to be reasonable ESOP terms. Indeed, at the time of my engagement, only Ted was
able to retain any hope that the utility receivable issue would ever actually be satisfactorily resolved.
In these challenging circumstances Ted and I agreed that the existing ESOP offering terms would be
more attractive to employees if the offering document were to include what would amount to a social
contract drawing employees and their leaders more closely into explicitly shared aspirations. I
visualized such a contract as constituting a spirit of commitment by all levels to personal-professional
growth via dedication to a desirable set of corporate value disciplines. I suggested that honesty be an
example of such a value discipline -- defining it, as Authentix Coaches had already defined it for clients
in prior coaching engagements, as:
Honesty: The discipline of avoiding either inaccuracy or deception and of being reciprocally
open about intents and evolving intentions.
Authentix Coaches had developed and practised over many years the Authentix list of eight definitions
for such personal-professional values. We viewed these definitions as a focus for developing
relationship skills toward which Authentix clients and their coaches, both, could aspire in our
engagements. Having worked with this list for several years I anticipated that, by sharing it with his
senior team, Chant would be able to develop, from this list as a base, a practical form for the corporate
social contract Ted and I were envisioning. We both saw such a contract as providing a blueprint for
increasing the level of trust each Chant person would feel able to repose safely in the authenticity and
empathy of other Chant people. I therefore proposed inserting a preface to the existing ESOP draft –
one that would explicitly commit Chant people to adopting defined value disciplines as an aspiration
toward which all would work in his or her own way. I also suggested we start with the eight value-
discipline definitions adopted in Authentix coaching engagements.
Feedback on this idea from the senior group resulted in their approval of all eight of the Authentix
definitions; and a lively debate – one facilitated by IHXENs – then ensued concerning other value
disciplines that the team collectively felt were necessary for success in Chant’s particular 'economic
niche'. This debate ended with a consensus around a total of 15 values – values we expected could be
elaborated into a 'ladder' of disciplines to which Chant people, both junior and senior, would all want to
aspire. We envisioned the ladder becoming a part of Chant's employee performance review process.
The ESOP team then asked me to thread the descriptions of the new value disciplines into a preface to
their ESOP document of Offer to Employees. When I had done this to their satisfaction, Ted added to
the credibility of the new value disciplines by having their descriptions framed and displayed prominently
in Chant's offices. The ESOP team then went ahead with the ESOP launch. The results? First,
everyone involved in these discussions felt a surge of confidence that coherence between Ted
and his prospective employee shareholders would more easily be found in the ongoing
problem-solving activities of the company; and second, the ESOP launch (a couple of months
later) attracted – without change to any of its pre-existing commercial terms – 'buy-ins' by
90% of its permanent employees. (By way of comparison, 90% is about three times the
average for ESOP launches in the United States).
Shortly thereafter, Ted's and my IHXEN-facilitated sessions culminated in our production of a draft for
the email to the utility president. But before sending it, Ted and I wanted to be very sure that both his
and my states of being in relation to sending the draft were, given its significance for Chant’s future,
truly equanimous. This requirement was not easy to satisfy because neither of us was entirely sure
how he could distinguish genuine equanimity from states of being close to it. We knew that equanimity
lay somewhere between pleasant and unpleasant emotions yet was not what one might call 'numbed-
out indifference' nor what one might call 'carefully controlled bravado'; and from our practice of IHXEN
exchanges we had both become minutely conscious of our emotions in relation to each significant part
of our draft. (A list of emotion nouns is available in the material provided at the end of this narrative).
Working in this way, our practice of IHXEN exchanges eventually led us both to feeling sure that each
of us had, in relation to the specific action of sending the draft, a state of being very close to genuine
equanimity (it certainly was not just either pretended indifference or bravado).
How this happened is worth noting carefully. The day before Ted sent the email I told him that I felt
equanimous about him sending it, and asked him what emotion he had about doing so. He replied: "I
too feel I have equanimity" (phrasing only from my memory). I then suggested he might not have
equanimity after sleeping on it, in which case he might want again to make a change. So we parted
with the unanimity that he would sleep on it, and that, if he had anything but equanimity in the
morning in relation to sending the draft he would make the change he then believed was necessary
and, if he then felt the slightest doubt about sending the result, he would call me and we would again
discuss it. A few days later I learned he had sent the draft we had agreed on the previous day, and
that the utility president had replied by an email requesting that he visit Ted. Phew!
The entire process took us almost six months. But, to our delight, the utility president's response
began with a starting settlement offer of $3 million. This meant that Chant could safely assume that
most of the remaining $7 million would soon be settled reasonably amicably. This response naturally
relieved a lot of anxiety on the part not only of Ted, who was then able to pass the issue over to his
lawyer, but also of Chant's employees, and of me also.
Ted had turned the corner for Chant Construction from what might be described as gamely brave but
dudgeonly frustration at the top and anxiety below to fruitful negotiation and confidence in future
Team Chant coherence throughout the organization. Our practice, at moments of particular
difficulty in decision-making, of the IHXEN form of I-statement, which is at the root of what is
now called the 'Eye-Zen English' family of Rational Emoto-Linguistics, had, together with our
personal experiences in shared discovery of the state of being that the word 'equanimity'
symbolizes, had facilitated discovery of 'the crucial difference'. Together, we had empowered
Ted to transform the energy of his anger and alarm – at the utility's neglect of the plight in which its
executives had left his company – into rationally purposeful and, in the event, very productive energy
on a wide but coherent 'front'.
This has been a narrative by the coach in this engagement. But what does the client, Ted Chant, have
to say about the coaching service he had hired? Shortly before he learned of the success of the email
he had sent to the CEO of his delinquent customer, the electric utility, this was Ted's written testimony:
"Combining corporate productivity with personal well-being has always been more art than science, and hence a
seemingly inaccessible goal to many. We began our quest for work nirvana 7 years ago knowing that an Employee
Share Ownership Plan (ESOP) would be a part of it. Having helped my corporate team reach and communicate the
balance among interests that a successful ESOP requires, Authentix Coaches’ Angus Cunningham is now helping
us realize larger aims through the growing of an organically constructive culture, in which the values we bring
from our home, workplace and marketplace experiences are refined into an equitable, coherent and vital whole.
Having a 2-hour coaching session each week with Angus is to find one turning the relentless pressure of today’s
working world into clarifying insights, intriguing intuitions, and focused initiatives in which one feels a welcome
degree of inner confidence, and often renewed energy. Each session enables me to reframe my sense of what is
occurring in my world with such accuracy that my setting of priorities and decision-making is not only making my
own life, and those of my family members, less workaholic, but also beginning to make the working lives of all our
employees more productive and enjoyable. Having Angus coach us through the many transitions we know we now
both must and want to make is giving us, when the going gets tough, confidence that we “have it in ourselves” to
realize shockingly excellent success!" – Ted Chant, February, 2007
Practice of the IHXEN form of I-statement was not on its own responsible for this result – one all the
more astonishing because it was not the expectation of anyone involved. The people who used this
practice also contributed many specialty skills of their own to produce the engagement’s success.
What practice of the IHXEN form had contributed was a rational and reasonable process for the
people who learned to use it to become consciously, not just viscerally, aware of the
emotions that from time to time would otherwise – had they not practiced IHXEN exchanges
– have diverted them from focusing on accurate problem-solving. By acquiring proficiency in
exchanging IHXENs, Ted and his senior team were able to transform the energy of their emotions into
trustingly connected and productively purposeful problem-solving.
|" ... minor alterations, carefully conceived and adeptly enacted, can produce major
consequences for individuals, organizations, and communities."
- Barry Glassner, commenting in a Los Angeles Times book review of Malcolm Gladwell's "The
Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference" (c) 2000-2002