Reader Dwight Robarts asks, “When is it okay to say ‘you’?” He correctly understands the importance for leaders to define self and make “I” statements. In last week’s teleconference I made the comment that I might challenge feuding staff members with a statement like this, “If you want to continue to work here, you have to figure out how to get along.” Obviously not an “I” statement!
I’ve been thinking about Dwight’s question this week. I think it is possible to issue a challenge using the word “you,” with care. It’s as much about the emotional freight of the message as it is about the language. If we’re going to make a “you” statement, we need to do it in a neutral way, where we don’t care too much about the outcome. In the case of the staff people above, if I have a lot invested in them making the choice to stay, I’m far too dependent on their response. The more I want them to do what I want, the more the resistance is likely to kick in.
Here’s another to try: “Here’s what I need from you.” In this case, too, we need to let go of our expectation of a certain response. We offer the invitation to join in an important endeavor, recognizing the choice is up to them.
And I would say, when in doubt, stick with the “I” statements, and defining self. Let me know your thoughts on this important issue.