A few posts back, I introduced the Language of Empowerment replacing generalities in our conversations with language that is more specific and more personal. You can read the article here.
A specific language shift that I introduce to my clients and the teams I work with is changing “It” or “You” to “I” in order to:
- Clearly ask for what I need
- Own my feelings or my experience of a situation
- Say what is true for me, even if it is different than what is true for you
- Share what I want, what I wish for, at the risk of feeling vulnerable
Here’s an example.
“You know how when you are really tired and you just need to take a break?”
Specific, owning my experience and asking for what I need:
“When I’m really tired, I need to take a break.” OR “I am really tired right now and I’d like to take a break.”
Period. Clearly say what I need.
I was with a team last week talking about this language shift. One of the women on the team commented that she found herself in a conversation recently where the other person was telling her something like the above statement, “You know when you…” She said she was thinking to herself, “No, I don’t know what that’s like” or “No, I don’t do that.” Rather than say what was true for her – and thereby disagree with the other person and potentially take the conversation in a different direction – she agreed with him. In her words, “he’d just told me how I feel, so I agreed with him so he’d get to his point.”
This happens all the time, doesn’t it?
Taking personal responsibility for how we feel and for what we need is practically forgotten in our culture today. To say what’s true for me, without diluting my message feels a little too bold. Making a specific request of someone (respectfully of course) in service of meeting my own needs feels “pushy” or potentially offensive to the other person. Sharing with you what I really want, or what I hope for, feels risky and vulnerable.
Boldness, truth, clear requests, and vulnerability are necessary! They are necessary attributes for cultivating meaningful, enriching relationships with other people.
Brene Brown, researcher, author, & speaker says that being fully seen and known by another person is what we fear most. And being fully seen and known by another person is what we want most. Hmm…at once, scary AND satisfying. Sounds adventurous!
Dare to make your communication more personal. And to take responsibility for what you need, what you feel, and what you want.
HOW?? Start with these 4 steps below :
- Replace “you” with “I”. Notice when you use the word “you” when you really mean “I.” (As in the example above). Speak more directly and clearly by daring to own your experience. The use of “You” when we mean “I” is a generic way of speaking that lumps me together with others, which feels less risky. For example, change “When you’re in a meeting and you know you have a different idea, and you…” to “When I’m in a meeting and I have a different idea, I feel ______ and I need ______.” Owning our experience and our needs may feel awkward or vulnerable at first. That’s ok; and often expected when doing something differently. AND, I’ve found that I feel more empowered and more confident as result of taking responsibility for my own experience. Try it!
- Replace “they” and other pronouns: “They won’t have it finished until Tuesday.” “This is how they do it here.” Of whom are you speaking? Replace the generic pronouns with a more specific identifier.
- Replace the word “it” in your sentences. The word “it” is a generic fill-in word for the subject of many sentences: “Thank you. It is helping.” “We planted it in the garden.” “I’m not worried about it.” “It is difficult.” I find this tip especially good to be mindful of when emailing others. After you type an email, go back and re-read your email, looking for the use of “it.” Anywhere you typed “it”, see if you can make your communication clearer or more specific by replacing “it.” Clarity and specificity, especially in emails, helps us have less misunderstandings and misinterpretations.
- Replace “it” with “I.” For example, change “It was good to see you” to “I enjoyed being with you yesterday.” Oooh, the second sentence feels more personal and maybe a bit vulnerable (say the two sentences aloud to experience the impact). Great! I believe more personal, more connection, less distance, less generics are precisely what we need today; And will lead to more empathy for one another.