Another important aspect of knowing who you are, as you begin to take greater responsibility for your own actions, is the right use of the language with which you communicate.
I believe that to be successful in anything, you first have to learn as much as you can about what you’re up against. You must start with the basics. I once enrolled in a community-college class to learn about the fundamentals of communication. You might remember that I’m an entrepreneur who built, and eventually sold, a company to Bill Gates. My goal after that was to become a speaker and author, and to train women how they too can get what they want. But like you, I first had to l earn from the ground up. I had to stay humble and be willing.
In one of these classes I took, we had to work through a series of exercises that taught us how to communicate using “I” statements. It is amazing how difficult it is to take 100% responsibility for what you say and do while conversing with another person.
At the end of these exercises, I recognized how many sentences I started with “you did this” or “you did that,” and how by doing this I managed to avoid taking responsibility for whatever situation I was in.
The statements we were taught to use instead are called “I” language.
Here are definitions of “I” language, and its opposite, “you” language.
“I” language: A statement that describes the speaker’s reaction to another person’s behavior without making judgments about its worth.”
“You” language: A statement that expresses or implies a judgment of another person.
From the sociology textbook Looking Out, Looking In, by Ronald B. Adler and Russell F. Proctor II (2006, Wadsworth Publishing).
Funny, it seems to be a lot easier to start a sentence with “you” and point out all the things that are wrong with another person. Even when you know that it’s more effective to communicate through your point of view, it’s all too easy to keep slipping back into old habits.
When communicating in any relationship, business or personal, you will fare much better when you state what you feel rather than making what comes across sounding like blanket accusations. The person you’re speaking to, the “you” of your conversation, will automatically be less defensive. As you speak from your point of view, you take responsibility for your own feelings instead of accusing the other person as being at fault for the way you feel.
Next we’ll look at how you can begin to use this communication model yourself. But first, tell me about your methods of communicating. Do you speak in terms of accusations (such as “you did this”) or in terms of self-recrimination (“I couldn’t help but…”) or in terms of taking responsibility? Let me know – I’d love to hear from you on this very important topic of communication.