As published in Forbes.
Listen to others speak, and one of the first things you will notice is how often people use words like “we,” “you,” “one” or “they” when they are really talking about themselves. For example:
One of the smallest and most powerful changes we can make to significantly improve our communication is to replace these four words with “I”:
This one simple change changes everything, and it has a big payoff.
When I speak from my own experience, my listener(s) experience me as more authentic, transparent and, often, trustworthy, all qualities we seek and expect from those we work with and through. Using “I” creates more trust because it actually is a more honest way to communicate.
When I use the word “I,” I no longer get to hide behind vague identities like “one.” Instead, I immediately take ownership and accountability by being specific about what is actually occurring for me. Using the word “I” gives my listener(s) (and myself) direct access to exactly where I stand and what I think and/or feel.
The word “I,” although more authentic, powerful and effective, is rarely used in the way I am suggesting. Why? Because it is riskier. When I use “I” instead of “you,” it requires me to name and own my real thoughts and feelings, which I might not even be fully aware of — or, if I am, not yet ready or willing to share with others.
Using “I” requires me to be vulnerable because it demands that I ask for what I want, something surprisingly few of us human beings are comfortable doing. “I have not bought into the idea, so I would like us to all take a step back. I can feel the group wanting to move forward. However, there are red flags I just can’t get over. Can we all please discuss?”
Becoming a better communicator requires that we become comfortable discussing the uncomfortable.
This is where I want you to begin:
Using the word “I” will help you understand what you really think, feel and want. By coming to know yourself more fully in this way, you will be able to tap your vast knowledge, experience and intuition in greater ways.
However, in order to benefit others and your organization, you cannot keep this improved awareness of what you actually think, feel and want to yourself. You must share it. Even as you pay more attention inward, you will need to be courageous and take the risk of sharing your real thoughts, feelings and wants with those you work with and through, all with only one purpose: to more effectively advance the people you lead and the businesses you serve.
As you lead in the coming weeks, keep the following cheat sheet where you can see it daily. If helpful, print this out and clip it to your notepad, where it can be front and center during meetings.
As always, I welcome your experiences and stories of how you have applied the above.
Susanne Biro is a coach to C-suite and executive level leaders. She is the founder of Inner Life Leadership, an app for business professionals who want to reach an unprecedented level of personal understanding and corresponding leadership (and life) success. Susanne is an author, executive development program designer, facilitator, Forbes & CEO Magazine contributing writer, and a TEDx and keynote speaker.
For over two decades, Susanne has worked internationally with senior-level leaders in some of the world’s best companies. Whether coaching one-on-one or authoring, designing, and delivering leadership programs, her passion is the same: to help leaders reach their next level.
Susanne can be reached at 604.864.5408 or via email at email@example.com
Our world has changed, rapidly and in unexpected ways. As the crisis hit, I offered and held pro bono sessions with leaders from around the world. And I want to continue to do what I can to help. As a result, I now offer hourly sessions to ensure leaders everywhere can quickly get the perspective, clarity and focus they need to lead themselves, and therefore others, well during these challenging and uncertain times.