There have been numerous books written on the subject of communication. One of the best is “Conscious Business” by Fred Kofman. I am reading this book now, but have read numerous others on the subject. The one thing that sticks in my mind has been how the littlest words, can have the biggest impact on communication.
We as human beings like to use the words, they, he she, it, that, those, etc.. All of these words are used in explaining why something that went wrong, failed, or did not happen was not our faults. Why it was something or someone else’s fault. These words are depowering words. However we as humans do not like having culpability when things go wrong. We prefer being able to put the blame else were rather than deal with our failures. It is human nature.
The reality is we should be using words such as I, We, Me, Us, etc.. When explaining why things went wrong, or did not happen, or failed. These words are empowering words. The reality is in every scenario were things did not go right, there were things that we could have done, said, not done or not said that would have changed the outcome. In other words we have culpability in those failed events.
The sooner we realize this and adjust our behavior accordingly, especially with regards to communication, the sooner we can empower ourselves to become better.
Let’s think about it for a second. Let’s say you and a coworker are working on a project together. You meet to go over the project just before it is do. Let’s say for the sake of the discussion, you coworker forgot 1 line of code, and because of this the code is not working and the project could fail. If you communicate with them using the “you” word, they will hear that as you blaming them, and pointing fingers. This will result in a bad work relationship, and the strong possibility the error will never get fixed, as it is very likely you will get into a quarrel about whose fault it is, as your coworker will defend themselves against what they perceive as an attack, were you are blaming them.
Now let’s say you meet with your coworker, you realize there is a missing line of code, but you also realize that it is as much your fault as theirs( this will be true in 99.9% of the cases. Anytime there is a outcome in any event, everyone involved in the event, directly and indirectly will have culpability, good or bad). So you use the word “we”, as in we have a problem, you maybe even use the word “I”, as in I messed up and did not see this earlier. Now all of a sudden your coworker realizes, that you are taking responsiblity for a mistake which may or maynot be your fault. They are allot more open to finding a solution. In most cases they will also want to take responsibility for the mistake. In the end you will worry less about the who of the mistake, then just fixing it. I can also tell you your coworker will have a much higher opinion of you, and so will your other coworkers and your boss.
This skill, the ability to use words that show you understand how your actions, and inactions can have a negative impact on events, the ability to recognize them, and to verbally express this understanding, can be used in solving problems.
It is real simple, the disempowering words create an adversarial situation that solves nothing, while the empowering words create a team situation, that solves problems, creates better working relationships, and gets things done.