I, and am sure you have also, have found many people use the word “you” instead of “I, me or myself” and when pointed out, they say, “Oh! It’s just a figure of speech! When I say “you,” I am referring to myself!” I used to earlier, and ever since I have become aware, I have made a change in my communication.
Here’s a excerpt from an exchange with a client:
Cheenu: Good morning! How can I help you today?
Client: I am having problems with my family members.
Cheenu: Please explain to me what happens, and what kind of problems exist?
Client: You know Cheenu, you know how much you have to slog and do things for people, and then they just don’t appreciate you! It is so frustrating and you get angry!
Cheenu: How do you know so much about what is going on in my life? And I do not get frustrated or angry so easily, or quickly, nowadays. What makes you say that I get angry?
Client: (With a quizzical and perplexed expression) “What was that? Don’t you understand what I am saying?
Cheenu: Let me repeat verbatim what you said – YOU know how much YOU have to slog and do things for people and then they just don’t appreciate YOU! It is so frustrating and YOU get angry! And considering that there are only two people here, I have to presume that you (client’s name) are referring to me (Cheenu) when you keep using “YOU.”
Client: Oh, that’s just a figure of speech. I actually meant myself, when I said you. Why are you being so difficult and nit-picky?
While this can be dismissed as a “figure of speech” and anyone (including myself) who points it out, could be found to be nit-picky, the truth is that by no stretch of imagination can “you” ever be used in place of “I, Me or Myself!” However, the sheer commonality of this usage got me thinking. And I see some deep rooted reasons for this kind of usage.
Very simply, I believe that this is an easy way of distancing oneself from the facts and more importantly, the emotions associated with these statements. And this usage of “you” instead of “I, me or myself” seems more prevalent when there are negative or not so good things to be said.
Bluntly stated, this is an easy way to escape taking responsibility for one’s emotions and actions. It is NEVER ever a figure of speech that is acceptable. And just because almost everyone does it, does not make it right.
It signifies many things, starting with lack of awareness, feeling of vulnerability, needing protection, practising avoidance and yes, most importantly, an unwillingness to take responsibility for one’s own self, actions and outcomes.
Sometimes, it could also be offensive when used in an angry tone, when one is chastising oneself for action or inaction. An example, Compare the following statements and it will be apparent which one shows responsibility.
“YOU know, YOU don’t have the right to complain about not feeling well, when YOU don’t have the will power or the discipline to get up and go to the gym, or do some kind of exercise everyday. And after putting on weight, there is no point in YOU complaining at all. YOU need to get a hold on YOURSELF and YOU need to do something about it.”
“I do not have the right to complain about not feeling well. When I have chosen not to exercise my will power or the discipline to get up and go to the gym or do some kind of exercise everyday. And after putting on weight, there is no point in my complaining at all. It would be useful for me to choose to need to get a hold of myself and, more importantly, to do something about it.”
And as always, it begins with awareness. And what one is aware of, one can change. Wise men have stated, “That which one is aware of, that is not good about them, will disappear. That which one is aware of, that is good about them, will multiply.”
Virginia Satir’s “Steps to learning” below, is pertinent here.
This article might be what happens in Step 2. Your response and reaction could be what happens in Step 3. And the key is to persist on to steps 4, 5 & 6! (If you need help on this, or have thoughts that need clarification, please reach out to me)
I urge you to start taking responsibility by using “I, me or myself” as appropriate in communication. Chances are that your (intentionally using the second person here) life will change greatly for the better. And life could become that much more enjoyable and pleasurable to live. I wish you health, happiness and prosperity!
PS. I have deliberately chosen to use I, me myself in most parts of this article.