mwotw i statements

I Statements

The executive on stage was telling a deeply personal story.

Heart attack, almost didn’t make it, fear of death, everything changed. 

And yet, instead of being rapt by his vulnerability, I was annoyed.

He kept saying “You.” 😠

As in, “When you almost die, it really puts things in perspective.”

And, “You feel nervous. You feel scared.”

This is an incredibly normal way to speak.

And I can’t stand it.

See, about 5 years ago, I attended a workshop led by Dr. Hazel Grace Yates. 

This woman literally has a Ph.D. in creating intimacy. 

For many years, her flagship work involved hosting sharing circles in which people speak about typically private experiences while being held in witness by a circle of the opposite gender.

It’s deep, edgy work.

And as part of setting a container for the process, she helped us see something I haven’t ever been able to unsee: “I” statements invite intimacy; generic “you” statements are a way to avoid it.

Do you notice a difference?

  • “You get in a car accident and life falls apart” 
  • “I got in a car accident and life fell apart.”
  • “You can’t control what other people do.”
  • “I can’t control what other people do.”
  • “When you have a baby, everything changes.”
  • “When I had a baby, everything changed.”

The “you” statement keeps the topic at arm’s length, skittering across the surface of connection.

Changing “you” to “I” brings the general into the specific. It opens a door. I literally feel it differently in my chest.

I invite you to play with this as an exercise.

  1. Find a friend to be your listener.
  2. Set a timer, and spend 1 minute talking about something that happened to you this week — using “you” statements.
  3. Speak about the same topic for another minute, this time using “I” statements. 
  4. Switch roles — now your friend does steps 2 & 3, and you listen.
  5. Notice. Discuss.

I honestly can’t think of a 5-minute exercise that has made a bigger difference in how I relate with the world.

Let me know if you try it?



PS – Sorry not sorry if you end up annoyed everytime you hear the generic “you” statements from now on…

This post was originally sent as an email to the Magic Words of the Week newsletter list. Every week, I share reflections on a word, quote, or phrase I think will help you thrive in your life’s work.

Want sage advice on life and business in your inbox every week? Join the Magic Words of the Week email list.

Similar Posts