“I” Language Doesn’t Influence

A few times a week, I endure a rigorous indoor cycle class where all I want is a decent workout. As a communication junkie, what I’ve noticed (and that bugs me more and more) is the use of “I” language. Now, I get that we all learned the importance of “I” language when it comes to difficult conversations and owning your part so that others don’t get defensive (I feel X…), that’s not this.

When we’re giving direction or delivering a message of influence, this is not the time to use “I” language. That is a time to focus on what your listeners need. They don’t care about what YOU need.

Allow me to explain. The instructors will say things like: “I want you to spin faster,” or “I need you to push yourself for one more minute,” or “I want you to think about why you came here today!” And while it’s all said with great enthusiasm—and sometimes to the tune of a drill sergeant playing Beyonce’ or Rihanna in the background—it misses the mark.

Notice how eliminating the “I” part makes it a much stronger message that has its audience in mind: “Spin faster!” “Push yourself for one more minute!” “Think about why you came here today!” Now we’re talking. It’s about me, making it more relevant and influential, with a much greater chance of inspiring me to do it.

It’s also important to avoid “I” language so you come across with more credibility. “I” language softens our message and takes away from the impact you could have. At your next meeting, instead using of phrases like “I think this will increase our business,” or “I believe this will make a difference to our bottom line,” try, instead: “This will increase our business,” or “This will make a difference…” and have supporting benefits and action items (and of course, SHARPs) to back it up.

The next time you’re leading a meeting or a spin class, remember: make it about your audience. You’ll increase your credibility and deliver a powerful message of influence.

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