I can’t keep track of how many times a week I talk about removing the word YOU from statements when people are talking to one another and most importantly, the phrase “you make me”….
Let’s face it… in most cases NO ONE is MAKING you … anything. When we use the vernacular “you make me” – we imply that we are not in control. So when someone says “you make me angry” – it implies that you are a victim of someone’s actions – that you are not accountable for YOUR anger – your feelings. Why would you give away your power like that?
I get the fact that when someone does something, says something, or behaves in a hurtful manner – we FEEL. Our feelings are hurt, we feel scared, we feel unsafe or worried but those are OUR feelings – no one said we should or have to feel. Our feelings are a reaction to something and quite frankly WE have the power to decide HOW we will react. We may not be able to choose the feelings that are generated when something happens but we most definitely have the ability to choose how to react when we feel something. Our feelings are OURS – they come from us and belong to us. This point is one of the most elementary components of improving communication (as we often attempt to communicate feelings) – at least in our familial and intimate relationships.
If you are able to comprehend the element of “I feel”, the next step is to remove “you” from sentences when speaking with someone. It’s important to understand that as a listener, when one hears the word “you” in a statement, it is associated with a visual of a pointing finger – IT ASSUMES BLAME. When we feel blamed, we will plan a defense. When we are planning a defense, we stop listening. Can you see how communication breaks down so quickly? Here is the spiral…. It happens in milliseconds….
Speaker – (speaking to husband walking in the door 2 hours after she expected him): “Where have you been? You disappointed the kids and ruined dinner; you couldn’t answer your phone or have the courtesy to call?”
Listener: (who left cell phone at office and got stuck in a major traffic jam) – (millisecond thought process) Whoa… I am getting attacked – I disappointed someone – this doesn’t feel good and may not end well – where can I run or how hard should I defend myself (flight or fight response is automatic)
The YOU’s in the speaker phrase set up a blaming pattern and feel like an attack to the listener. Our human-ness incites an automatic reaction to protect. From this point onward the potential for an out-of-control spiral is significant. By eliminating the YOU’s and focusing of FEELINGs that exist in the moment, an entirely different scenario unfolds…
Speaker – (speaking to husband walking in the door 2 hours after she expected him): “Wow are we glad to see you. I was so worried when I couldn’t get through to your phone and we were all disappointed that you couldn’t be home for dinner. What happened?”
Listener: Since no attack is present there is no need for a defense – normal conversation ensues.
I won’t pretend that it is easy to eliminate YOUs from our habitual sentence structure – I am often challenged to reword statements in the heat of a ‘feeling’ moment but it is well worth the effort. In the beginning, it is helpful to write out what you want to say and then circle all the YOUs on the paper. Rewrite and rewrite until the statement reflects what you are feeling and wish to communicate. If necessary, read what you have written so that you are not tempted by the emotions of the situation to start the blame game. Learn to OWN your feelings, they are neither right nor wrong – they just are but it’s necessary to understand that they are YOURS and come from you. They exist for a reason and often, we feel something today that is actually an OLD feeling we are reminded of based on a similar circumstance (trigger) but the feelings don’t really go with the current situation – that’s another post. : )
Practice, practice, and KEEP your power!