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Are you able to talk to someone about how you are affected by a situation or behavior without using the word “you”?

It's often recommended that if we have an emotional reaction, to something that has happened in our lives, to someone else's behavior, or to the way that we are treated, we should own that emotion. It doesn't mean we condone what happened, but that we make the decision about what to do next. I suppose it's focused on moving away from trying to fix others, and focusing on what we allow in our lives. This is something I've been working on myself, in every type of relationship I have (work, family, friends, etc.). I'm wondering if anyone else feels the difference between, "I'm angry because I've been waiting for an hour" and "I'm angry because you are an hour late." Is it hard for others to shift from "you" to "I" in this way? Would it work all the time? When would it be appropriate to stick with the "you"?

I'm curious about others opinion on this.

By Stacey48
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25 comments

5

Mastering this skill relieves a great deal of drama and stress from one's life. I replace the perceived-accusatory "you" with curiosity; how, what, and a very gentle why. LOL

josephr Level 7 June 11, 2018
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Well said.

4

I was told in an interpersonal communications course to avoid using You and assigning blame when expressing anger. This has been a very difficult task for me. Also, just saying I feel..... Does not always work. Defensive people may get riled up no matter what approach is taken. One of my pet peeves is people who are habitually very late so I try to avoid them if possible. They always have excuses. Sometimes lateness is due to poor time management but I feel that it is a narcissistic, passive aggressive behavior. My time is just as important as people who are always late. But not to them I guess. Back to your question about using You or I, tone of voice and body language communicate as much or more than words.

RDaneel Level 5 June 13, 2018
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Yes, I agree. The non-verbal communication should match the words.

4

Had to think about this for awhile. I try to own my reactions, responses etc. That doesn't mean I ignore other's inappropriate behavior. It just means I am responsible for how I respond to their behavior no matter what they do. Also if I don't use 'you' or 'your' when talking about someone's bad behavior I'm being less accusatory and trying to give them space to recognize what I'm pointing out. Having said all that I definitely don't always succeed at doing this. smile009.gif Good post!

kmdskit3 Level 8 June 13, 2018
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INDEED. And an excellent response, TY!

4

To me it's about boundaries and ownership. Instead of saying "you did this to me," saying "I feel this." Because regardless of what another person says or does, we own how we react and respond.

bleurowz Level 7 June 12, 2018
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3

I generally go with 'we' or 'us'. As in: "This system we have here doesn't seem to be working out well for us. Shall we talk about how we can fix it?" It's usually more productive to invite someone to be part of the solution instead of blaming them for the problem.. If it's a new and personal relationship that isn't working for me, I'll say something like, "I don't think the dynamic between us is a good one. It's no one's fault ~ we just have wildly different expectations and we don't seem to be a good match." This has the advantage of being true and the approach is especially useful when dealing with teens who are romantically involved with someone who isn't good to/for them. My youngest daughter, an otherwise incredibly bright girl, was smitten with a boy who would very subtly undermine her self confidence. When she would become emotional and insecure, he'd be there to 'save' her. She was unable to see the manipulation: she could only see the comfort. I knew that if I blasted him, she'd automatically defend him so I said, "I like Aaron fine. He's smart and funny and I feel bad for him because his mother is an alcoholic. I'm not always so sure about the dynamic between the two of you, though. Do you ever think about that? It doesn't have to be anyone's fault ~ sometimes it just takes a while to see the big picture and to realize maybe this situation isn't working out so well. You're a smart girl. You'll figure everything out." (She wound up marrying someone who is nothing like Aaron, thank goodness!)

Spudnut Level 6 June 14, 2018
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You've made a good point regarding "we" and "us". Collaboration is an important prioity in any relationship. In this case, the "I" statements could actually take away from the collaborative nature. I'm having this concern in my work within a new team of colleagues. I lean toward collaboration, and there has been a bit of a competitive nature involved in our new dynamics. I'm not very good at competitive relationships. smile001.gif

@Stacey48 I can't be in a competitive relationship, no matter how benign it may appear. I have never even cared if I won a board game: I'm only there to play and have fun. I can't even imagine trying to accomplish anything in a competitive environment at work. I know it happens all the time, though ~ my friends tell me about it. I deliberately chose a field in which I would be the sheriff of everything. Fortunately, I enjoy a stellar reputation as a nanny so I could get away with telling parents what I expected of them instead of the other way around. Not in a nasty way, of course, but I would say (during an interview), "If you hire me, I'm going to expect you to listen to me. You're supposedly hiring me for my expertise. If you don't accept and adopt my guidance, you're wasting your money, right?" To the delight of everyone, this worked out and I'm still close with all three of my families, including the wonderful children we all raised together. (I stayed so long at each job, I only worked with three families over the course of my entire career.)

@Spudnut It's interesting, we are in similar feilds. I specialize in infant and toddler care, working with adults to improve their practice in the classroom. Even here the collaborative process is necessary. I'm impressed by the work that you do. Were you working with these children and their families starting at a certain age?

@Stacey48 Are you teaching parents how to be better parents? I once mentored teen Moms through the Children's Home Society and what an experience that was. You asked if I started working with children at a certain age. Before I became a nanny, I raised six kids (adopted and home grown) of my own, by myself. Two of them were special needs kids. Then I opened a family day care and wound up shutting it down (with two months notice) when I had the opportunity to become a nanny for one of my day care families. The two boys were toddler and pre-school age and, frankly ~ the older boy had already been 'ruined' by the time I got him in my day care. The parents were totally incompetent, although they were very nice people. I stayed with them for six unhappy years because the little guy was so in love with me, I couldn't bear to leave him. For my next two jobs, I insisted on getting babies who came straight home from the hospital and into my arms. It's hard to turn a kid around when he or she has already become accustomed to behaving badly and getting away with it. The tail wagging the entire family, so to speak. When I would interview with a first time pregnant woman and her husband, I would say, flat out, "We all know at least one family where, when they show up with their kid, we're filled with dread. If I work with you, we are not going to be raising that kind of kid, okay?"

@Spudnut I work with teachers, who. In turn work with parents. I've worked with some family home child care providers. I have a different perspective on children's growth and development.

@Stacey48 It occurs to me that I'm probably coming off like cold and distant caregiver. Nothing could be further from the truth. I'm very nurturing and I flat out ADORE my kids. I just believe in redirecting unacceptable behavior and doing it in an even tone that leaves no room for misunderstanding. I take all my kids to story hour and to the playground and such. I can't tell you how many three year olds I see, swearing at their parents and throwing toys at their heads. This tells me the parents aren't doing their jobs and their frustrated children are paying the price. I'm hyper protective of the kids I care for, I love holding them and reading to them, being silly with them, doing projects with them, showing them new things in Nature, going to their school programs, etc. The children from my last job, which lasted 13 years, asked their parents to appoint me their legal guardian in case The Worst should happen. And the parents did ~ happily so ~ knowing the kids would be loved as much as the parents loved them. I sometimes wonder at how quickly things change. I have children (of my own) from two different generations. In the sixties, I was considered a lax and permissive parent because I had a policy of not hitting or spanking my kids and I asked for their opinions before making decisions that would affect the whole family. In the eighties, I was the same parent but by then, I was unreasonably 'strict' because I was still teaching my kid, from the cradle, that we speak to each other respectfully, even when we're angry. "You can tell me you're angry and why you're angry and I will listen. You cannot scream at me or throw objects. I may learn that I made a mistake and, if I did, I will apologize and make it right." My adult kids all tell me that the things they most appreciate about the way they were raised is that I always listened carefully to them and that I always offered a sincere apology if I screwed up. Sorry this is so long ~ I didn't want to leave any unnecessary misunderstandings.

@Spudnut No, I apologize. I should have been more clear with my last comment. I work with children who may have experienced trauma in their lives, become a part of the foster care system, or are even living homeless. When you mentioned the young preschool age child that may have been "ruined", it contridicted what I know about child development. There has been research regarding the impact of consistency, and the presence of, even one, positive and caring adult influencing the resilience for that child. Your infuence makes a profound impact on the children you care for, and from what you have shared it is obvious that it was positive and nurturing.

@Stacey48 Wow! We do have things in common. First ~ I used the word, 'ruined', facetiously. What was happening in that family was this: Mom or Dad would pick him up from day care and would tell him they were going to such and so restaurant for dinner. The kid (only two at the time) would begin screaming and punching his parent in the head, demanding they go to a different restaurant. They'd do everything wrong ~ threatening, pleading, and finally caving in. As you say, because he had no consistency, he was a mess, even though he had a stable, upper class, family. Now. About the kids you're helping. Bless your kind heart. We have ten of these children in our family. Although we are a white family, these ten particular grandchildren are all black or mixed race. They have been through hell and it's been a crap shoot as to whether or not they'll ever be able to adjust to a loving, stable family. My daughter and her husband have legally adopted three sets of siblings and a 'single'. One child ~ a two year old girl ~ was delivered to my daughter's emergency foster home with gun oil still in her mouth, courtesy of Momma's boyfriend threatening to blow the baby's head off. One sister and brother are from Somalia; their birth mother is dying from AIDS. The little girl is terribly traumatized and the little boy has HIV and an inoperable brain tumor that affects his large motor skills. He's the sweetest boy, ever. One of the older girls talks incessantly about how she wants to get pregnant by age 15 so she can have a baby of her own. When my daughter asks, "And who will take care of your baby while you want to sleep all day on Saturday?", Maria responds ~ "YOU will! That's what you're supposed to do!" One of the boys was found locked in a closet, emaciated. He cannot get enough food and no amount of therapy has helped. He gets up in the night and eats all the lunches that have been packed for his siblings or he'll eat a whole bucket of ice cream he dug out from the bottom of the basement freezer. He has never formed an attachment to anyone in the family except me. He doesn't confide in me but he accepts and welcomes being touched by me and virtually always initiates physical touch with me. I once read about children who are called 'transcenders' ~ as you said, just one person can change a kid's outlook on his or her miserable life. Even just one person who says one kind or encouraging thing to them. A friend and I were discussing this and she told me about being a fat little girl who was bullied on the school bus. She had to wait for the bus in front of a neighborhood bakery. Every morning, an elderly woman would come outside with a small cookie for my friend, and this woman would tell my friend how pretty she was and how she was probably the smartest girl in her class. That woman made all the difference to my friend: she only regrets she never got the chance to thank her, once she was grown. Your work must be very emotional for you. I have an acquaintance whose job it is to make a final recommendation to judges about whether to sever parental rights and it weighs on her when she goes home at night.

@Spudnut Your daughter must be an amazing human being. I can read what you've written, and can only vaguely imagine what the children have gone through. I know in those systems, adoptive parents don't always get the full story, adding to the challenge I suppose. Heathy attachment is so valuable, I'm glad you are there to offer support as well. Are you familiar with ACE resilience and protective factors? I've been learning a lot more about in the past few years. It is a good resouce for suporting children who may have experienced trauma.

[acesconnection.com]

3

Yes, am able to do so now, this was a few decades in the making and IS a life long process. Have learned by loss and that grief. There are at least two sides to conflict and often more to this plus to resolution. The blame game only causes more grief.

By learning to remove myself until I cool down when angry plus staying constructively distracted in the meanwhile, I can emotionally digest... so, cope a lot better. The primal brain doesn't get the better of me as often!smile001.gif

Not taking things personally is one thing I still focus on.

LetzGetReal Level 7 June 12, 2018
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I agree, sometimes its hard not to take things personally.

3

Sounds like something to keep in mind for appropriate circumstances, but I also see how it could be seen as a bit passive aggressive. I can see it working in your "waiting an hour" example.

I was taught to make "I feel..." statements, but then they would usually be followed with "that when you do this..." right after. Looking back at my previous dysfunctional relationship, I think I used "You" accusations now and then, knowing it was not positive communication, because I was trying to get out of the relationship, and offering reasons. Sometimes one just has to say exactly what one feels.

However in a good healthy relationship worth saving, or family matters, yes, any reminders of not placing blame and owning your own feelings is likely good.

Julie808 Level 7 June 12, 2018
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Thank you. Yes, I've learned similar "I feel" statements when my father was in rehab. It still had the you involved, and it was very scripted. "When you...I feel...because" Those were very difficult conversation so the structure needed to be there. They were very helpful.

2

I have always believed in taken responsibility for my reaction. but I have learned about that skill about 6 months ago. I am working with the "I "statements it works sometimes. it's hard doing this because I am so used to the "you" statements. but I like it because it makes it easier to express my feeling in a more assertive manner.

yaya87 Level 5 June 14, 2018
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I agree. We're so used to the "you" statements, and inadvertently shifting the focus outside ourselves. It's basically like changing a habit, in my opinion.

2

Yes. Absolutely. I could not agree with you more. Learned the importance of the skill at Brotherhood/Sisterhood U.S.A. while in high school; and learned some more when I worked for a conflict resolution consulting firm years ago.

The below is similar regarding the use of the word "you" and is one of my pet peeves. ESPECIALLY when it comes to conversations about feelings or when the person feels vulnerable. Example:

"You know when you've been seeing somebody and everything is great and you feel on top of the world? And, then out of the blue, it all just crashes and you see that they are not who you thought they were? You feel so discombobulated, and you just want to throw the towel in and become a hermit. You know what I mean?"

Grrrrrr...... when it's your own experience, OWN it. Use "I."

BlueWave Level 7 June 13, 2018
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2

Expecting others to change is a recipe for disappointment. Sometimes they will, but at least as often they won't, some say more often.

Focus on what you can definitely change, and that's only you.

If you don't want to be angry for waiting an hour, do you expect that you can change the other person to stop them from being late? What about the next time someone else is late, are you going to try and change them after getting angry at a new person? What if you figured out a way to stop getting angry, expect that others are sometimes late and have a game plan to occupy your time or time check or anything else. Take steps to mitigate that person wasting your time in the future as they do not respect you as much as you'd like.

You're correct that it is a method to focus on what you can affect.

mattersauce Level 6 June 12, 2018
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Yes, the waiting was just an example, I'm the one that is usually late. smile003.gif Thank you for your perspective.

Edited

@Stacey48 It is rude in some cases to be late, IF habitual it is a sign of poor life management. I am from the east where people don't take this lightly, either.

I had a "date" about 2 yrs ago to meet a man at a bookstore in Maryland. I was about 45 ms late. The trains were delayed and my cell phone was almost out of charge so was trying to save it as I left w/o the plug. I was imperfect and some of it was my fault, sure.

When I arrived, HE WAS PISSED and did not offer me a space to explain. I simply said, "If you want to leave then, leave", in a quiet way. He snorted, OKAY I WILL. I felt bad for about an NYC millisecond and then wonderfully RELIEVED.

Had a great rest of the day knowing I dodged that bullet, too~

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"Easy for YOU to say that !!!!!"........ And that right there confirms that what you're saying really make sense, no doubt. It may seem like semantics but, if at the end of the day we can put ourselves into someone else shoes for a minute, that should help a lot in most cases.

IamNobody Level 8 June 12, 2018
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smile001.gif

2

I totally get why it's healthier to avoid saying "you." And I strive to do this in all my relationships, but I'm not always successful. It's particularly hard when dealing with my ex, but I'm happy to be able to say that we've worked through the worst of everything. We now coparent rather well, as there's nothing left to fight over. Placing blame on others is just a way to justify our emotions that we don't like to have, instead of owning them and dealing with them.

Nottheonlyone Level 7 June 12, 2018
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Well said, thank you.

2

I find that using 'I' instead of 'you' in certain situations introduces empathy to the interaction. Usually a benefit.

AmiSue Level 8 June 12, 2018
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2

Saying "you" places blame while omitting it makes it less of an attack IMHO

Agamic Level 5 June 12, 2018
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That makes sense to me.

2

I know some people (one in particular) that won't EVER take responsibility for anything. No matter how asinine the external messages (including a crying daughter, due to just being shouted at for not "getting it" ), they still can't see a problem. Frasier Crane would likely call it extreme narcissistic personality disorder (LOVE that show!).

Either way, I see a bit of that in me, so I always try and raise myself outside of the confines of my annoyance and see if I am being ridiculous. I then try to proportion my reaction by this finding.

Another thing to consider is hypocricy. If you arrive late to some preplanned event, have I done the same thing before? This can extend to any social faux pas.
Interestingly, this is also a common thread amongst the narcissists in my life. Expecting all to deal with their flaws and faux pas, but not being able to overlook anyone elses.

Mb_Man Level 5 June 12, 2018
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My sister will never admit that she has done something that hurt me. She says awful shit to me trolling me on Facebook and when I point out that I have removed myself from her life and she won't leave me alone, in her mind that was me starting a fight... When she literally trolled my page posting a comment calling me a narcissistic asshole. In her mind I started it. Narcissists are amazing.

That is interesting insight. Would you say your example of hypocrisy, is a sort of projection? This is something they do themselves, so they automatically see it in others? (I don't know if I stated that well)

@Joenobody I can't see the point of doing that to someone. Can you cut her from FB as well?

@Stacey48 lol yeah, she opened other accounts lol. I didn't speak with her for 7 years because she just spews awful at you until you break but my divorce... My ex-wife knows how I feel about my sister so she became her best friend, inviting her to birthdays and milestones. Now my sister randomly attacks me via social media lol. Ugh, family are just people you grow up with in close proximity, nothing more.

@Stacey48 Not as much projection as just a serious lack of self-awareness.

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It is often counter productive to over think stuff like this. The underlying argument is that it isn't the situation but how it is internalized or projected. The rest is just semantics. Me, I only last Thursday afternoon quit using the imperial "we".

TravelinTom Level 5 June 12, 2018
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Yes, I agree, it isn't the situation but how we internalize or project it. Oh, and I overthink most things. Lol

Edited
2

this is aways very hard

JenBeberstein Level 7 June 12, 2018
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2

I wear my heart on my sleeve so my displeasure is usually apparent if I have to wait for a unrealistic amount of time. I am a very anxious person so waiting seems like a waste of time and I am always under time pressure. I still get bothered but I can deal with it much better now. When I fail at this I use C.B.T. to asses why I reacted in a way I didn't like. I don't want to control others anyway. It's futile to expect a human to never make mistakes and that I can control anyone except myself. I am so worried I might make any mistake, I can't judge others harshly, unless they are guilty of injustice.

I would probably ask what happened, and be fine with a reasonable explanation. I'm really chill now, for the most part. Peace through love.

McVinegar Level 7 June 11, 2018
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It sounds like you have a lot of tools and strategies in place. I think it's a challenging process to find what works best for us as individuals. I express myself non verbally a lot more than I'd like. The trouble I have is expressing my emotions in a way that doesn't come across as blame. I feel big, and often others take on the responsibility for having caused my emotions. I own my own, and really don't want others to take that on. So for me, finding away to express that I'm responsible for my own emotions has become my goal.

@Stacey48 I feel the same way. I would rather let emotion guide my actions and not dictate them to me.

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It is a concept that I try to adhere to, sometimes well, sometimes not! It makes sense as i want to express how a behavior effects me, even when the other person, could care less!

Freedompath Level 8 June 11, 2018
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It is tricky.

1

This is a technique that can be very effective in general use with strangers or friendly acquaintances, or in the early days of an intimate relationship, but for a long-term relationship it can feel alienating to find your S.O. using a technique on you. It sort of signals that there isn’t enough trust between you to relax, be yourself, and weather the normal daily climate of a relationship.

One way to inoculate the relationship against this problem is to cultivate the opposite stance humorously when there are no issues extant. It requires a sturdy sense of self, and it’s probably not for everyone, but if you are thoroughly in the habit of jokingly blaming the other person for everything you both know is your own fault, then when you really do commit an offense and defensively blame your partner it appears to all like a joke and the habitual ensuing laughter helps you both glide right over it. Getting blamed for something is instinctively taken by the blamee as an admission of guilt from the blamer.

skado Level 8 June 12, 2018
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Do you see it as a technique? That's interesting. I had started focusing on changing how I expressed myself, after coming across some misunderstanding. It was my thought that I was expressing a need, but it was taken as accusatory. I feel like if this becomes a change in the way I speak, it would not really be a technique, but rather a clearer way to communicate. I do agree, the humor is an important component. We can't take ourselves to seriously, but we also are able to show respect for a person if it is serious to them. Humor is the most valuable component in any relationship, in my opinion. Thank you, skado.

@Stacey48
I think it reasonably meets the definition of technique, but I'm not saying that's a bad thing. Having good manners is a technique in the sense that it is learned instead of innate. And I'm all for having good manners, treating each other well, etc. Speaking in less damaging tones is, if nothing else, just good manners. It's a skill everyone should have, and yes, it can become naturalized as a clearer way to communicate without feeling manipulative. And I would never want any kind of relationship to devolve into being unkind or careless with each other's feelings, but...
Just saying the closer two people become, hopefully the less formality is required between them, and a sort of humor-infused trust could develop, for a more casual communication atmosphere where precise phrasing wasn't as necessary.

1

Yes. It absolutely works. I'm pretty sure adopting this new way of communicating is what has made my marriage work. It also puts you in a different perspective, giving credit to you're involvement in the issue. No one is innocent. For me personally I married a man who was never taught how to communicate about his feelings or emotions and turned to drugs for comfort. Taking the "you" out of conversations allowed him to be able to hear me instead of immediately being defensive and running away to his old comfort. Definitely recommended this for everyone

Haleighdawn1019 Level 4 June 12, 2018
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Thank you for this. It's good to hear your perspective on how you've found it helpful in your life.

1

This is a nuance that I don't understand... Someone saying "you" to me has zero additional negative impact. I always own my mistakes and admit when I'm wrong because I'm wrong all the time lol that's how we learn. I also don't have a typical emotional response...

Joenobody Level 5 June 12, 2018
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1

Sticking with your work theme, As a manager who does goal setting and evaluation of subordinates one would be remiss to avoid using the word "you" when coaching your staff. One tool that I used was the S.M.A.R.T. model. Many examples of this can be found online. I have included one for your convenience.

[dartmouth.edu]

kensmile4u Level 7 June 11, 2018
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This is familiar to me. My coaching work doesn't require me to manage those I work with. It is collaborative, not evaluative, and it is focused in their teaching practices. In this work it is all about the "you" because it isn't my goal. We begin with a brainstorming process, and cognitive coaching that helps facilitate thinking and narrow the goal. SMART goals are developed based on self-assessment that is also data informed, and a practice based coaching cycle begins. I would rarely be focused on my own agenda during this process, so it would be focused on them. It wouldn't however be focused on correcting their behavior in an evaluative way, this is designated to their site director.

@Stacey48 I am familiar with your function in the director's organization as an advisor or consultant. In this case one would be speaking in abstract terms or using the first person point of view when talking about yourself. Good post! smile001.gif

Edited

@kensmile4u smile001.gif Thank you for a very thoughtful response.

0

Listening to someone talk in the 2nd person universal is bad enough.

Once any variant of "you" is used, there is no way to avoid needing another dozen instances to finish a thought.

When this "style" is used in writing of any kind, especially instruction manuals, I get crazy.

===========

And then, when you are finished working with your music program on your computer in your studio, you should use your index finger on your hand to click your mouse button to hi-lite your clip in your song displayed on your monitor.

And then use your ring finger (or your middle finger) on your hand to click your right button on your mouse to display your context menu so you can choose from your choices to change your clip in the way you want to,...

And then when you are happy that you did what you wanted to process your clip in your song, click FILE on your menu in your program to save your project to your folder on your hard-drive.

=======

Jacar Level 7 June 12, 2018
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