Making sense of your internal chatter using Theory U

Tijmen Rümke
3 min readJun 1, 2017

Imagine having to face something scary or imagining a new possible future that you’re contemplating pursuing. How is your mind? If you’re anything like me, there’s one thing it’s not. Quiet.

Usually, for me, there are quite a lot of chatter in my head. Maybe you recognize this self-talk. This inner dialogue.

I recently had my work situation at Knowmads suddenly end. Quite the shock. My mind quickly started trying to make sense of it. It came up with all these stories and ways I could view the situation.

Luckily, I knew of the 3 voices Theory U describes.

Theory U is a process model for personal and organizational change. Among other things, it defines three Voices that hinder you when/from moving towards a higher but uncertain possible future. They are the Voice of Judgement (VoJ), Voice of Cynicism (VoC) and the Voice of Fear (VoF).

The VoJ closes your mind off by judging new information and ideas. It’s trying to confirm your worldview and mental models.

The VoC closes the heart by being cynical about the outcome and intention of other humans. Better only trust yourself.

The VoF closes your will by playing to your fears to stifle you and prevent you from taking “the leap”.

These 3 voices are present in your inner dialogue. Now, they are trying to protect you. Simply, because the future is uncertain and it has often served you (or your ancestors) well to be a little cautious. So they put the brakes on your efforts in leading your life fully according to your inner desires.

These voices were in full effect when I had to leave Knowmads. They were straight up chatter boxes. All three were spinning stories.

VoJ: It’s ridiculous. Again this chaos, story of Knowmads! It’s the wrong way to go. I should have handled this better/prevented this.
VoC: It’s unfair! I’m leaving the students behind! How do I explain this to everyone, they’ll laugh! Nobody is having my back! I’m being played!
VoF: Oh shit, income goes down! What will I do with my time?

Knowing such a framework gave me the awareness and the space to take a step back and observe.

I could hear these stories and my feelings about the situation. Listen to the voices and understand where they’re coming from. Thanking their effort and underlying intention. And from there, shifting from their stories to choose for positivity and a more loving take on the situation.

Open Mind: I understand why it’s necessary. It’s the best available option at this point.
Open Heart: Everybody handled with best intentions and capability. I’m not the only one hurting.
Open Will: All this time that’s now freed up. What fertile ground for opportunities!

The confusion, anger, sadness and fear made room for gratitude for what has been, for excitement about the future, and even feeling of liberation.

I hope knowing about this framework can help you too. If you think it could help someone else, please heart the story or even share it with a friend.

PS: So yes, I’m no longer at Knowmads. The tribe is going well. Handling the change well (there’s been more change than just me leaving) and I have great hopes for the school.

PPS: Yes that means I’m now again full time independent and working on Studio George. A renewed commitment to writing and the CurioCabinet, hosting growing sessions and workshop for companies, and organizing open workshops and coaching for creative entrepreneurs.

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Tijmen Rümke

Empowering creatives to gain clarity on purpose and get business savvy. Trainer and Podcast Host by day, know-it-all by night. www.studiogeorge.nl