One big truth behind caring about the use of “I” or “You” is the question of responsibility. For a simple example, the difference between “Did you understand me?” and “Did I make sense?” is the attribution of responsibility.

And attribution is a wiggly thing. When I stumble, I look for the crack in the sidewalk that I can blame. When you stumble I may look for the crack, or I may wonder what you did to cause you to stumble? We see the same action differently when it’s “you” doing it rather than “me.”

Some of us are really good at depression, so we may be quick to blame ourselves for things that we really had no control over. We may even be quick to blame ourselves for things that happen to other people.

But more generally, the tendency is to find an outside responsibility – luck, or other people, for example — for unpleasant things that happen to ourselves and claim our own responsibility – competence, for example –for good things that happen. With others, quite the other way, we aren’t so quick to see that bad luck caused the problem for the others, but rather we look for the fault in them.

It’s really handy to do things like blame the working poor for their own poverty rather than to recognize the social/economic truths at work. It’s equally handy to look at our own success and pat ourselves on the back for the good work we’ve done rather than appreciate the social/economic gifts we’ve been given.

This is tough business, but if the goal is to save therapy expense, or even just to like ourselves better, it’s a good idea to look at the rationality of our attributions. Problems don’t get solved until our attributions become more accurate.

So now, when it comes to selling my books, it’s not that I’m poor at marketing, it’s your fault for not buying them.


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  1. I’m so thankful you wrote in this.i could read this kind of thing all day. It helps me with self inventory. “What am I say and how am I saying this to other people.” “How might they perceive my words and the way I say them?” And “am I saying what I want to say in a way that my intended message won’t be misconstrued due to my unintended use of what I am really trying to say to them?” I hate to offend.

  2. Excuse my terrible wordage in last comment. I’m sure you get the point tho.

  3. “Some of us are really good at depression,” You are good at expressing:) I love the way you word things- the words are doing a dance, in my ears. And I say yes to your last sentence – even thought I have bought them 🙂

  4. As usual – food for thought with some humor thrown in. What you write about makes such sense…but of course, you are qualified. Thank you

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