During my undergraduate “Business Writing” class, I learned something that really stuck with me. It made me think twice before talking. It made me realize how a simple change of words can have a completely different meaning.
I learned about the I and the You statements.
The I and the You statements are simple:
I Statements : Communicating a problem without accusing someone. Takes ownership of the statement. This allows for the other side to help fix the problem rather than admit they were wrong.
You Statements: Communicating a problem while making accusations. Places blame on someone else, rather than taking ownership. This puts the other side in a defensive state.
In order to be an effective leader, it is vital to understand the I/You statements and how these impact those you are communicating with. I have found it interesting that during my MBA courses not a single professor has mentioned the difference between these two small, yet vital, words. Yet these two small words speak loudly about a leader’s capabilities, personality, and overall effectiveness.
Here are some examples of using You vs. I
“You didn’t finish the report on time.” vs. “I really am getting backed up on my work since I don’t have the report yet.”
– Is it really necessary to use the accusatory YOU statement, when the latter statement reflect the same message without making accusations of “YOU didn’t finish…”
“You didn’t list the outline in the email.” vs. “I’m unable to find the outline in that last email.”
-The first automatically puts someone in the defensive. The latter is stating that the outline clearly wasn’t listed, but isn’t directly placing any sort of blame.
“You broke your promise.” vs. “I felt let down.”
– Must I elaborate? This one is self explanatory.
By using “you,” you might as well be pointing a finger to specifically target the attack. So whether you’re communicating with staff, co-workers, or even a spouse – think about how you react while confronting someone. Do you use “you”? Try to use “I.” It’ll make a world of difference.