Adapted from Chapter 1 of How to Say It for Women
“Why don’t more of us recognize the connection between language and power?”
Five Ways “I” Statements Drain Your Power
1. They blame you when it’s someone else’s problem
I have a problem with my friend. She spreads nasty gossip about me.
Why is your friend’s nastiness your problem? Whose problem is it really? Is it the gossip? My friend’s gossip… or is it the friend? Jane’s gossip about me ….
I don’t have time to answer your message. If you want to answer why not say, Your message deserves a careful answer and it’ll come after I get home from work.
2. They hint that you don’t know what you’re talking about
I think I can do the job. Well, if you can do the job why not say so?
I think the exam was too tough … I think my average was highest in the class … I think you should stop bullying that kid. In every one of these, the “I think” suggests a fact is not a fact or is just your opinion — why would anyone listen to you?
3. They make you look childlike
Babies start life with only one focus: themselves. If they grow up (and not everyone does), they gradually grow capable of taking some distance and seeing the world the way it looks to other people or the way the facts show it to be. As they grow, they also see the world from someone else’s point of view and show empathy.
Instead of I don’t like that teacher, try That teacher doesn’t give us enough time to finish the work.
Instead of I see you look sad, try I know you felt bad about that.
4. They produce “touchy-feely” weak statements
I feel good about this project … I feel miserable when … I’d love to work here
5. They strip your leadership ability
I want you to … I insist you … I expect you to.