The Power of “I”

written by Mikaela Cowles on February 18, 2016 in Sentence Structure and Tone/Voice with no comments

The Power of I

Want your writing to build stronger relationships?

Want your emails to make clients feel valued and your newsletters to build employee loyalty?

The secret is mastering the power of “I.” 

By understanding when and how to use “I statements” you can revolutionize your relationships. For this purpose, we’re looking at not just the use of I, but also my, we, and our. These are first person pronouns. They allow you to:

  • Be Assertive – There’s no pussy footing around when you’re talking in the first person. “I statements” directly reflect what you believe and where you stand.
  • Take Ownership – Taking ownership of a situation is one of the quickest ways to build trust. This is especially true if you’re owning your own mistake. This can also relate to taking ownership of an upcoming project or acknowledging a scheduled event.

However, “I statements” can also alienate your reader. By putting the focus on you, the writer, they can come across as self absorbed and cocky. Think of the super star athlete who pounds his chest and sings his own praises.

This is why the second person pronoun, you, is also important. It allows you to:

  • Show Compassion – Acknowledging readers as people tells them you’re thinking about them, that you’re considering their wants, fears, dreams, and goals.
  • Be Inclusive – A “you statement” includes your reader in the discussion.

 

Consider How You Would Feel

Effectively using “I statements” and “you statements” is a skill. Don’t worry if it doesn’t come naturally. With practice and careful consideration, you can learn how to instinctively use these statements.

The key is to consider how you would feel as the reader. This is the age-old adage, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

Below are some examples comparing “I statements” and “you statements.” Some are pulled verbatim and others, in the interest of privacy, are representations of the original.

 

We vs. I

Option 1

Over the last few weeks on this podcast, we’ve been doing some intensive tactical trainings. We’ve talked about adding upsells to your sales promotions, adding bonuses, when to add them. We’ve talked about the mindset of list building, and then we’ve gotten really specific about what you need to do to build your list.

Option 2

Over the last few weeks on this podcast I’ve done some intensive tactical trainings. I’ve talked about adding upsells to your sales promotions, adding bonuses to them. I’ve talked about the mindset of list building, and I’ve gotten really specific about what you need to do to build your list.

What’s Working: Option 1 is the original version, taken from the opening of Amy Porterfield’s blog post, “#86: Creating An Honest Business From The Ground Up.” In this instance Porterfield’s use of “we” includes the reader in her podcasts. This helps reinforce a sense of community, which helps you build stronger relationships. Ultimately, Option 1 is the stronger piece.

 

You vs. Me

Option 1

When contacting someone new, it’s comforting to have a friend tell me, “Don’t worry; she’s nice.”

Option 2

“Don’t worry; she’s nice” is a phrase a friend might comfort you with before you contact someone you don’t know.

What’s Working: In Option 2, Stefanie Flaxman’s Copy Blogger post, “3 Sources of Fuel for Sophisticated Content Marketers,” speaks directly to the reader. It acknowledges something to which the reader can relate. Conversely, Option 1 would have made the statement all about Flaxman.

 

The Authoritative I vs. The Accusatory I

Option 1

Hi Team,

Last night I saw a post on my Twitter feed about goofy statements mechanics have used to promote their services. While humorous, this post has a rather negative/judgmental tone…especially towards the mechanic using the statement. I deleted the tweet and would like it to be removed from any other social shares.

Remember, as an auto body shop, mechanics are the hand that feeds us, and while they sometimes do things that challenge common sense, it isn’t something I want to publish publically. What if we worked with a mechanic who we were calling out? It would probably end the relationship.

Option 2

You recently tweeted about goofy statements mechanics have used to promote their service. This post has a negative/judgmental tone. I removed it.

I run an auto body shop. Mechanics are the hand that feeds us. Making fun of mechanics is not appropriate. I would like all other such mentions removed.

What’s Working: Opening with the word “team” in Option 1, the sender establishes that they and the recipient are working toward a common goal. This sentiment is reinforced later in the email with the use of “we.” Furthermore, the use of “I” in Option 1 only describes the actions the sender takes. At no point does Option 1 speak to the recipient on an individual level about the mistake. Rather, it speaks to how the mistake could hurt the team.

Conversely in Option 2, the sender points blame directly at the recipient and clearly defines that the business is hers. Both of these Option 2 tactics alienate the recipient.

 

 

 





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