Adapted from A Model for Communication by Bennet Wong and Jock McKeen

I believe using ownership language to be an effective way of engaging people who exert control over others. When I speak you will hear me frequently sharing statements that start with: I believe, I imagine, I assume, etc. These are not speaking strategies, they are me sharing my judgments about what I see and hear going on in the City.


Judgment arises out of the interpretation of my 5 senses. Only my sight and hearing are stimulated by what is happening in Burien. When I see abandoned bank REOs blighting my neighborhood, and hear the City justifying inaction, I form judgments. These thoughts aren't about right and wrong. Rather, I disagree with the City not doing its job as prescribed by both code and law.

Throughout history people have been admonished for the act of judging. Yet everyday, we do judge. It is how we make sense out of the information coming in through our senses. Judgment is our way of expressing what we like, prefer or want.

My judgments are about what I am experiencing, not the “you're with me or against me” approach. The latter style is often experienced as absolutism and tends to polarize people. I want my audience to see what is happening, and to entertain the idea that things can be better.

Right and Wrong

We are all raised differently and have unique experiences that create our life's context. From that perspective, we then interact in the World. To judge another person as wrong, is likely to get a reactive response. Communication will likely cease. However, if I share that I believe the policies to be ineffective, I am not making it personal. I am just sharing my opinions about the situation, not the person. This dovetails with one of the basic rules of the podium: keep it focused on policies, not personal. Resolution is still possible with the approach.

In a personal relationship, I have the opportunity to engage in dialogue. I can find out more about the situation and hear the other person's perspective. Unfortunately, in a Council Chamber setting, that is not permitted. I am allowed to share my thoughts and ask rhetorical questions only. The Council and City Manager may or may not respond. It is their choice.



Here I am referring to the primordial experiences we felt before words. Feelings are either positive and I move closer or they are negative and I move back and away. The feelings I experience with these abandoned houses and inaction is negative.

As we grow up we will name these feelings and experiences with words. Frequently they will be misnamed. This will cause serious communication problems. Statements like “I feel the City is doing a poor job on Code Enforcement” is not a feeling. Its a misrepresentation of the judgment “I believe / think the City is doing a poor job on Code Enforcement”.

Being less than direct in my language will send a mixed message to the Council about my commitment for change. Councils who engage in one up / one down, frequently ignore people who are insouciant in their choice of words. Using judgment statements about policies is a clean and direct way of communicating; it gets results.


Intention is about how I translate my perceptions, judgments and feelings into action. I have choice: what I would like to do, intend to do, or will do. In each of my presentations I share my intent on how I am going to present this material.


Action is easy to execute and comprehend when I am clear about my perceptions, judgments, feelings and intention. I choose the act of speaking before the Council. When the City chose not to engage and clean up the problem, I add a sting: I call out their behavior. The bold text in the reconnaissance section shows the underlying message of my words. Communicating this way will get their attention, and connect my message to the community.


I believe you will find using ownership language useful in your life and at the podium. It is a blame free way of getting results, and your audience will know what you want.

When I hear other people using ownership language: I experience inclusiveness and a clarity of purpose.