The word “You” is one many of us use every day in our relationships with others, yet this word alone can be very destructive. When we use the word “You,” most of the time we are blaming the other person for something. Or at least it feels like blame and makes that person defensive. This defensive posture is the catalyst for most arguments and tension in a relationship.
We have been taught to use the word “You” by not taking responsibility for our feelings and actions. Many of us learned at a young age that tension or problems in the family were our fault. As a child, we learned when we deflected blame, it created a release of tension by diverting the attention to someone else. While the word “You” may have served a positive purpose as a child, it creates much stress and destruction in relationships as an adult.
When we use the word “You,” it’s as if we are pointing our finger at the other person and saying, “It’s your fault.” This creates a defensive posture in the other person and then “You” starts to fly in both directions. This defensiveness created by the use of “You” gets both parties to start saying things they do not mean, things that are untrue and hurtful and that they will regret.
Many of us are used to this type of communication and disrespect. We may not like how we feel when the argument ensues, but we do it because this is the way we were taught to communicate, because it is familiar to us. Even though the current way of communicating hurts greatly, communicating in a different fashion can be scary enough that we don’t try to change.
It makes logical sense that if we are hurting ourselves and others, we need to do something different. If our logic were in control, our behaviors would quickly change to make the situation safer and more respectful. Yet feelings, rather than logic, drive these arguments. As long as we talk about the “he-said she-said facts,” no one is heard. In the argument, a portion of the issue may get temporarily resolved until the next argument triggers the underlying feelings again. This gives rise to the same argument and pain over again. Even when people are ready to change this “You” communication pattern, changing takes conscious effort.
When we talk from the “You,” we are communicating from a position of wanting to be heard. We explain all the facts and situations, hoping to be understood, with little or no success. The other person may have heard all the information and can repeat nearly every word, yet the message is not heard. To actually be heard requires the other person to be able and willing to listen rather than determine ways to respond to what is being shared. To listen means we do not have to defend ourselves or figure out ways to fix the problem, it means we just listen and only ask for clarification as needed, while interjecting nothing.
To create a situation where we can be heard requires us to get rid of the “You.” This can keep the other person from getting into a defensive posture. Rather than communicating from “You,” we communicate from “I” to help limit defensiveness. Taking it a step further, we talk about our feelings from the “I” position, since the energy that needs to be heard and worked through is our feelings.
Communicating from “I” takes time, practice and encouragement. When we are able to develop this new format of communicating, many things change in a positive fashion.