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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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22 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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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 8 June 12, 2018
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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 8 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 8 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 7 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~

2

"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.

2

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

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 8 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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