Leaders: Stop speaking with the royal ‘you’

How many times in an interview — particularly with athletes — have you heard a line like:

“Yes, today was a big win. You try so hard all season and you give it your best on the field and you just have to appreciate what it takes to compete at this level.”

Hmm, I have a question. Who is “you” in this case? Who is the athlete talking about?

During interviews, why do we often speak in the second person? Obviously, the athlete refers to himself or herself when saying, “You try so hard all season.” So why the royal “you”?

Here’s my assessment. When we are asked to talk about ourselves, we feel funny using “I” because it feels like bragging or speaking out of turn.

“I try so hard all season and I give it my best on the field.”

Instead, we insert a “you” to deflect attention or praise.

But the “you” is a passive way to discuss the efforts of you and your team.

As a leader in your organization, you may find yourself doing interviews with media or speaking to team members/clients. When those moments arise, catch yourself dropping “you” and instead opt for “I” and “we.”

Here’s an example of the wrong way:

“When you land a big client, your next move is to make sure you are prepared for the challenges ahead. As a team leader, you never know when issues will arise, but you need to be ready.”

Bleh. All the “yous” make the speaker seem passive and not in control of the situation.

Let’s try again:

“When we land a big client, our next move is to make sure we are prepared for the challenges ahead. As a team leader, I never know when issues will arise, but I need to be ready.”

Now the quote feels like it comes from the speaker directly. The words appear more assertive and confident, right?

We replace “I” for “you” so much in our day-to-day conversations that the mistake often filters into our writing and public speaking too.

Keep close watch on when you use “you,” take a pause and then switch to “I.”

The best leaders speak with authenticity and from the heart.

A steady dose of “I” will get you there.

This article first appeared on Dannyhrubin.com.