In the speaking industry, there’s a concept called “I/you ratios,” which helps the speaker to recognize that the audience would rather hear about themselves than about the speaker. For example, it’s better to say “in the next two paragraphs you will learn several powerful concepts that will help you improve your presentations and enhance your personal communication” than it is to say “I am going to discuss key concepts and I am going to share my brilliance.” Perhaps a tad exaggerated, but you get the point. Focusing on these pronouns may also help you to direct your attention to the needs and interests of your audience. Presentations, public speaking, and writing to inform or persuade are most effective when the focus is on the other.

Conversely, when caught in contentious conversations, it my be better to make “I statements.” Pointing fingers by addressing what the other person did wrong or should be doing tends to lead to escalation. Expressing your own thoughts and feelings and taking responsibility can lead toward understanding and resolution. Paula and I decided to create rules of engagement for arguments such that the pronoun “you” is off limits and we have to steer clear of blame and accusation. We agreed we can remind each other of “the game we are playing” or else violation would be an easy target for attack and rectitude. I have to admit that if righteous indignation were an Olympic event, historically I would have been a podium contender. What I’m learning is that a life of peace, love, and exhilaration depends on letting go of being right. A great phrase I heard at a Play Around the World presentation was to be curious before being judgmental. One of the best lessons I’ve learned from our brilliant students at the University of Alberta.

Thus attending to the valuable and careful selection of “you” and “I” depending on the context, can really assist your effective communication. You see the importance of you/I.  And UI/UC … That’s where I went to grad school.

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