In general, I suggest to people that they never use the word “you” except to say something positive like “I love you,” or “You did such a great job on that project.” But there is another way that “you” becomes a positive word, as in “I’m so interested to hear your opinion about that,” or “Please tell me what interesting experiences you’ve had around that issue.”

But I still advise caution with that word “you.” Too often it’s a shaming word, as in “Why did you fall for that scam,” or “You should have known better.”

Worse yet, it’s a blaming word, as in “I lost because you gave me bad advice,” “Everything would have worked out OK if you hadn’t interfered.”

Sometimes it’s a blaming word even when it’s meant to be inspirational. I heard recently of a lecture session in which the speaker recounted the historically bad ways in which an ethnic group had been treated. At the end he suggested to the audience something like “You have a chance now to go out and rectify this situation.”  Many were heard as they left saying something like, “Why should I be blamed for something I didn’t do?” It’s that word “you.” All by itself it’s heard as an accusation.

Maybe the most annoying use of the word “you” is when it’s intrusive. I’d be willing to bet each of us has experienced the negative effects of this, and done our share of “you” intrusiveness in speaking to others. It happens most often, I think, when people are trying to be helpful. The person in financial, emotional, or other difficulty is bombarded by friends and other helpers attacking with, “Have you tried … ?” Why don’t you …” “You should …” “If you’d only … “Had you thought of … ?” Put them all together they amount to shame and blame. The victim of the unsolicited help is usually too polite to say, “Come off it. Do you think I’m stupid? Of course I’ve tried everything I could think of. Get off my back.”

The promise of “you” is a matter of respect. When I ask to learn more about you and what you did or do, it may come through as intrusive. Or, well presented with genuine interest, it may be experienced as a neat opportunity to share oneself with someone who cares.

Now I’ve told you what you ought to know about the word “you.” Are you sufficiently annoyed yet?



Posted April 1, 2016 by Mona Gustafson Affinito in Uncategorized

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  1. reaction: I love you:) – thank you

  2. Yep, that’s true. You are so right. You are on top of things. I really like you.

  3. You have captured the word YOU and given it stardom. Thank you and I will be ever so much more cautious in how I
    fling that YOU word, here and there. You are right, you and I are working at our craft so others can learn to use words effectively. You are in the swing of things once again. BRAVO to YOU!!

  4. READ me:

  5. This is a good reminder about how important it is to use the word “you” with care. Another wonderful post – I particularly liked the fun twist in the last paragraph.

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