A Simple Holiday and Life Hack

by Lance Ekum on · 59 comments

Today, it is an honor to have Jennifer Abbott as our guest writer.  Jennifer is a wonderful soul, caring lady, and all-around princess of kindness.  A talented writer, Jennifer shares thought-provoking articles at Principles for Peace – a blog with a real focus on achieving inner peace and true success in life.  “Do You Want to be Great?” is one example of the “spoken from the heart” writing she does.  When she’s not carving inspiring stories from the keyboard –  Jennifer enjoys sculpting, softball, and spending time with her wonderful husband.

Sit back, have a cup of coffee, and enjoy, as Jennifer shares with us…

A Simple Holiday and Life Hack

“Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless.” ~ Mother Teresa

Creative Commons License photo credit: *SMILING PUG

*SMILING PUG* - ????! Gong Xi Fa Cai! , HAPPY CHINESE NEW YEAR, PUG CHINADOLL MODEL BY BUGBABY *-*We all know the holidays can be a bit (or a lot) stressful.  For a few rare families the holidays may go effortlessly smooth, but to others the holidays can quickly turn into an episode of Everybody Loves Raymond.  Let’s take a look at one way we can make the holidays be a bit more pleasant.

I’m involved with a program called SFT Awareness in which we teach people how to process and remove emotional pain.  The following lesson is a part of a lesson we teach that I have found to personally be very helpful in my everyday life.  The more I implement this principle the more effective my communication is and my life just seems to go a little easier.  It is really simple, yet takes a lot of effort to master.  However, I have found the effort to be well worth it.  This concept is called the “You” Rule.  And no, that doesn’t mean that YOU RULE, but it does mean that you put the spotlight on yourself.  Confused?  Let me see if I can clear things up.

Creative Commons License photo credit: Chris Owens

Flying Hot Dog

Consider this: How many times a day do you use the word “you” when it is not associated with a compliment or giving directions or information that is asked for?

Have you ever used any of these phrases before?  Consider how you feel when these phrases are directed toward you:

“You should….”

“You need to….”

“You (can be implied) do it like this….”

“You always…..”

“You think you’re….”

The “You” Rule goes something like this:  Never use the word “you” again except for a compliment or if someone asks you for directions or help. As a general rule, the word “you” is considered to be antagonistic, puts pressure on people and makes them defensive.

Often when people use the word “you” an insult or negative thought is sure to follow and/or the thinking error of controlling is involved.  Implementing the “You” Rule helps to ensure that these things do not take place.

This rule is especially helpful when combined with assertive statements that get your needs met while not offending the other person.  Instead of using the word “you,” mix a little humility and respect with putting the spotlight on yourself and things will go much easier.  You may not always get your way, but you have been heard and you have not offended anyone.

Scenario: You are discussing with your family what to do for the meals when you get together for the holidays.  Someone suggests that you all go out to eat.  Maybe you don’t like that suggestion.

One possible response is, “You always make the decisions about what we do for meals.”  Does this sound any better? –  “That’s a good idea.  It would be a lot easier to eat out, but I would like it if we all cooked a little something and stayed in.”  Not only is the person complimented for “a good idea,” but by saying, “I would like it if….” the spotlight is put on you and the other person does not feel attacked.

Other examples:

When you are sitting around with your family at the holidays, instead of saying, “You need to read this book.” say something like, “I just read this great book.”  or “I have got to tell you about this great book I read.”  Then tell them about how it was helpful to you and not how it can help them.  This puts the spotlight on you and they are a lot more likely to read the book and see if it can also help them.

Instead of saying, “You always pick the restaurant when we eat out.”  Say, something like, “You always pick really good restaurants (compliment), but I would like it if we take turns choosing where we eat.”  Again, in this example, by saying, “I would like it if…” the spotlight is on you.

Obviously, it is not always bad to use the word “you,” but as a general rule it is considered antagonistic.  I have found that it’s especially okay to use “you” for directions (IF asked) and great to use it plentifully for compliments.  It is also great to use when trying to genuinely learn more about someone or when I am asking for help.

In regards to offering help: often times, I have found that people do not want my help unless they ask me.  So I find it a general rule to implement the “You” Rule, keep silent and let people do things the way they do them.

Your turn: Can you think of a time when you used the word “you” and things went wrong?  How about a time when someone used the word “you” toward you and you felt attacked or pressured?

Lance writes stories from his heart, aiming to inspire and motivate, as you align more fully with YOUR true peak. When he's not here, you can find him hanging out with his family, riding a bike, or just generally acting goofy.   Sign up for the Thoughts from the Treehouse newsletter and get additional inspiration in your email inbox!
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{ 55 comments… read them below or add one }

Karl - Work Happy Now December 2, 2008 at 10:01 pm

I do over use the word “you.” It has just become a habit. When we point to someone and say “you” messed up, we’ve put all the blame on them when there is usually blame to be taken upon ourselves as well.

You make a good point. We must foster a loving relationship with the people in our lives instead of pointing out faults.

Karl – Work Happy Now´s last blog post..Day 1of 30 – No complaining


Jannie December 2, 2008 at 10:04 pm

Wow, I just read those You / I sentences out loud and there is a profound difference in how they sit on the ear and the level of stress is much less to hear the “I”, takes the onus off the listener. “I” it will be!


Jannie´s last blog post..And some SEO in a pear tree


Audra Krell December 2, 2008 at 10:07 pm

Well written post with a great message. YOU did a wonderful job! : )

Audra Krell´s last blog post..Teamwork Works for Me


Linda Abbit December 2, 2008 at 10:50 pm

This reminded me about “I” statements, which are another variation on this excellent theme.

Instead of saying “You upset me when you blah, blah, blah.” It is wiser to say “I feel upset when you blah, blah, blah.” Subtle, yet powerful. Words certainly matter, and “I” like this new perspective.:-)

Linda Abbit´s last blog post..Family Caregivers Communication Class — Part 5: How to Talk with Aging Parents When They Can’t Speak


LifeMadeGreat | Juliet December 2, 2008 at 11:53 pm

Hi Lance

Great post. I like the tips on when you can use the word “you”.

Regarding the recommended “phrases to avoid”. I’m quite conscious of using these types of phrases as, in the past, I spent a great deal of time in an environment where they were used excessively; and I know the feeling when one is on the receiving end.

Another phrase I’ve heard quite frequently is “you people” or “those people” – wow, very condescending and prejudice galore.

Thanks for the reminder,

LifeMadeGreat | Juliet´s last blog post..Overcoming The Barriers of Introversion: Introduction


LifeMadeGreat | Juliet December 2, 2008 at 11:56 pm

Oops, sorry, addressed to Lance instead of Jennifer

LifeMadeGreat | Juliet´s last blog post..Overcoming The Barriers of Introversion: Introduction


Mike King December 3, 2008 at 12:06 am

YOU always write well thought and useful articles Jennifer thanks. And Lance, well YOU sure know how to pick and connect with other exceptional writers on such meaningful topics. Great stuff!

I hope I used the word, “YOU” there OK??


Lance December 3, 2008 at 5:36 am

@Karl – Good point about how habit-forming this can be. And when it becomes a habit, we don’t even think about it, we just do it – without even realizing the negativity or defensiveness it is generating. Jennifer does an excellent job of pointing out how simply rewording some of our “you” statements can really make all the difference. And that becomes about fostering the positive, the good. And not dwelling on faults. Thanks Karl, great addition to the conversation!

@Jannie – Yes, just a few slight changes to what we say can make a world of difference! I’m wondering now how much I use the negative-connotation “you” statements without even realizing it. Thanks to Jennifer, I’ll probably be analyzing everthing I say!! And if that leads to me making the “You” Rule part of my daily life – then this is all a very good thing.

@Audra – Thanks Audra, Jennifer did a great job here, and her knowledge and message shine through brightly!

@Linda – Great example Linda. The “I feel” vs. “You upset me” is really a very subtle difference. And yet, the implication between the two statements can be difference between quickly resolving something, and something that festers for a long time. On a side note, the use of “blah, blah, blah” reminds me of my wife – because sometimes she thinks that’s all I hear!

@LifeMadeGreat|Juliet – Being on the receiving end – knowing how these statements “feel” – you know firsthand the hurt they can create. And knowing that, wouldn’t it be nice if more people followed these suggestions Jennifer is recommending here. What a difference it would make. And the use of “you people” – another great example of what Jennifer is talking about – this time, just for a bigger group of people – but with the same connotation. Thank you, Juliet, for the reminder that sometimes “you” can apply to an even bigger group of people than just one – and can have the same negative effects.

@Mike – Well, Mike, I think YOU did a great job using the word “you” – I feel good, and I’m sure Jennifer does too! And, really, a great example of when using “you” is a good thing – in the form of a compliment! Thanks, Mike!


Tom Volkar/ Delightful Work December 3, 2008 at 6:04 am

Thanks Lance for showcasing Jennifer and her gems. Jennifer I’ve used this lesson extensively when coaching first line manufacturing supervisors in adversarial relationships with union workers. It’s amazing to see the turn-around that happens just by teaching everyone to use “I” messages.

Tom Volkar/ Delightful Work´s last blog post..Grounding Your Small Business Vision


Scott December 3, 2008 at 6:35 am

You don’t even know how overboard I get using the word You. Yes, I seem to do it just as easy as that previous statement. But I really like how you have presented this. I have often had folks tell me just what you have so wonderfully relayed here, it just never has been presented as well.

The first thing that pops in my mind (being a negative person I guess) is the ol’ adage “You can’t teach a old dog new tricks.” Well, I know it will be quite difficult to overcome, but I am going to put my negativity aside and give this a shot as it makes total sense. Not just in the holiday aspect but also in every day dealings with folks.

Great post Jennifer!
Great choice Lance!

Scott´s last blog post..Project: Seven Things I’m Thankful For


Annette December 3, 2008 at 6:42 am

great advice……..especially around the holidays! I need to work on this one with the kids and hubby 🙂

Annette´s last blog post..Ringing in a New Month with Some L-O-V-E


Jamie Simmerman December 3, 2008 at 8:13 am

Hi Jennifer! This is an absolutely wonderful post! I am so going to put this to use. I tried to pay attention last evening to what I said for several hours, and I didn’t do too badly, but there are a few tweaks to be made. Thanks for the idea.

And Lance, I am so loving you in Thesis, much better than the dress. 😀
I completely want to steal your RSS coffee mug. Very suave. 😉

Jamie Simmerman´s last blog post..Communicate Dang It!


Mindful Mimi December 3, 2008 at 9:38 am

Thanks for sharing this guest post from Jennifer.
Through work we have been through some behavior skills trainings, one of which included something similar to what Jennifer describes. It was also often linked to the ‘give feelings’ rule. It may sound selfish to prefer to talk in the ‘I’ form but it actually makes life less aggressive. And when you give feelings (like saying, I really like this or that, I am not comfortable with this or that) instead of saying what you want that is even better.
I agree with Jennifer: it is simple but not easy as we’re all brainwashed to say the ‘you’ word most of the time. But as Christine Kane once mentioned in her post (http://christinekane.com/blog/9-irresistible-reasons-to-go-complaint-free-starting-right-now/) it takes 21 days to form a habit. So let’s get at it.

Mindful Mimi´s last blog post..To be on Facebook or not to be on Facebook…


Writer Dad December 3, 2008 at 9:56 am

I don’t know why I’m here, since Jamie beat me on everything I’d like to say.
Great post Jennifer, and Lance, I LOVE you in thesis. It looks great. I had RSS icon envy the second I saw your mug. Great job!

Writer Dad´s last blog post..Writer Dad in Rough Draft


Jennifer December 3, 2008 at 10:10 am

Thanks everyone for the wonderful feedback. YOU are all wonderful! I was going to come in here and make comments to each one individually, but alas Lance was on top of things and I really don’t have anything else to add to what he has said except Thank YOU. So, I’ll start with Tom since his comment doesn’t have a response yet.

Tom, thanks for the compliment. I bet there have been some amazing turn-arounds in these situations. I would love to see it first hand in a situation like that.

Scott, I’m glad that I was able to present this in such a clear fashion. Can’t teach an old dog new tricks…. Good thing we’re not dogs, 🙂 but I have known of 12 year old dogs being trained. They really can learn at any time just like we can. Good luck with this. If I can do it, I know you can!

I have to tell this story Scott. When I first heard this lesson I almost literally didn’t talk for a week. I was so frustrated. I was just told never use “you” except for compliments and directions. Everything I was going to say had the word “you” in it even though many of the times it wasn’t negative (but, of course sometimes it was). I finally learned that sometimes it’s ok to use “you,” but if at all possible try to refrain or reword. And, I finally learned to talk again – only much better.

Annette, good luck. I know YOU can do it! I would love to hear the difference it makes.

Jamie, thanks for the compliment. Good luck! I would love to hear from you as well as to how it helps. (I think that sentence brings up another good point – about how it’s ok to use “you” if you are making a request of someone – but, still even in that case “you” could be used wrong.) That’s great that you didn’t do bad last night. You must be at a much better place than I was when I first heard this lesson. I use this rule constantly, but I my skills still need to be tweaked. As a matter of fact, it was really good for me to write this post and to remind myself of these things again. And Jamie, I agree with both of those last statements – This theme is much better than the dress and I want his coffee mug RSS too. We must come up with a way to steal that! 🙂

Jennifer´s last blog post..A Simple Holiday and Life Hack


MizFit December 3, 2008 at 11:10 am

I needed to hear this today. for some reason I have totally fallen into the YOU trap with my three year old…and it’s not workin for me 🙂
thank YOU.

MizFit´s last blog post..We’ve got more questions & this time it’s personal…


Vered - MomGrind December 3, 2008 at 12:23 pm

I probably use the word “you” too much with my kids. Thanks, Jennifer, for making me more aware of this.


Wendi Kelly-Life's Little Inspirations December 3, 2008 at 12:27 pm


Excellant points! Thanks, I am in the last week of directing a full length play and as a director I know I am currently using the “You” more than normal. This is a good reminder.

Wendi Kelly-Life’s Little Inspirations´s last blog post..A Day of Gratitude, A Life Grateful


Sagan December 3, 2008 at 12:28 pm

Wow. That is a fantastic idea.

I use the word “you” far too often in a generalized sense. Or when I’m encompassing a large number of people, myself included. But I’ve always wondered if people get annoyed by it and think I’m using the word “you” in a personal/individual sense… I’ll be working very hard to change my phrasing now!


Carla December 3, 2008 at 1:30 pm

“Never use the word “you” again except for a compliment or if someone asks you for directions or help.”

Great advice!
I don’t know when I have used it recently (I’m sure I have though) but this is a good reminder for me not to use it in a negative context especially this season. Though we don’t do the traditional holiday cerebrations, tons of gifts, etc we will have some activities that will take places this month (parties, travel, etc) that does put a little stress on us – even if its good stress.

Carla´s last blog post..I am sick of “green”


caroline December 3, 2008 at 1:56 pm

What a timely post! It always amazes me how one little word can change everything. Taking the “you” out is just mind blowing. Thank you for this today…I am looking forward to practicing this 🙂

caroline´s last blog post..Getting through the hard part


Jennifer December 3, 2008 at 2:30 pm

Mimi, thanks for your thoughtful reply that added so much to the discussion. Yes, it may sound selfish to use “I” so much, but actually it’s not. It could become that way in the hands of the wrong person who is obsessed with himself, but that’s not the point of the lesson.

I have never heard of the “give feelings” rule. I like that. I think I do that one a lot already. Whew! – One more thing I don’t have to work too hard on. 🙂

Simple, but not easy is a great description of this. 21 days – we can all do something for 21 days! That’s realistic.

Sean, thanks for the compliment. I’m glad you made a comment anyway. Jamie stole your words, huh? They say great minds think alike. 🙂 Maybe you, me and Jamie could gang up on Lance and take his mug. Imagine what three great minds could come up with. Let’s make a plan. 🙂

Miz Fit. Glad that I could provide something helpful for the day. Good luck implementing it. A 3 year old – challenging indeed I’m sure. I bet you could brag a bit too though.

Vered, your welcome and good luck. Raising children is a challenging job (I hear people say.)

Wendi, I can see how a play director would use “you” a lot. Just out of curiosity, I would be interested to see the difference in the people in a play between someone telling them, “You stand here.” vs. “I need you to stand here.” or “It would look best if you stood here.” or “You need to speak up.” vs. “I’m having trouble hearing you.” I think it would be challenging directing a play, but I’m sure you are great at it. Hope it goes great!

Sagan, glad that you found this helpful and that I could help you wonder some more 🙂 I’d love the hear the results of the new phrasing. Keep me posted.

Jennifer´s last blog post..A Simple Holiday and Life Hack


Jennifer December 3, 2008 at 2:45 pm

Carla, glad you liked this. We have greatly downplayed the gift giving in my family this year and that is taking a big stress off of me, but the travels have multiplied. Sounds like there will be plenty of opportunities for us both to implement this.

Caroline, your welcome. I’m glad that you have found it helpful and timely. Just one word really can make a difference (although it usually involves changing more than one word). Good luck with this and like with everyone else here, I would love to hear your results as well.

Jennifer´s last blog post..A Simple Holiday and Life Hack


Maya December 3, 2008 at 6:09 pm

Hi Jennifer,
This is such a great post!
I try very hard to keep out of this – since once I get into the cycle, it gets very hard to get out.
I really do not know, but I think I am pretty good at keeping the word “YOU” away from my life ….but I am still learning to respond appropriately when I am subjected to the YOU treatment. I do not respond as maturely as I think I should be and then things and conversations get into a never ending cycle.

And LANCE! Love your look 🙂

Maya´s last blog post..Slideshow: My Story – The Happiness Habit


Laurie December 3, 2008 at 6:15 pm

Above, Linda said “You upset me when you blah, blah, blah.” It is wiser to say “I feel upset when you blah, blah, blah.”

I have even heard of another way to put this that is even less offensive to the person receiving the message.

“I’m feeling upset right now. I need ___”
The reason to phrase it this way is because the person is usually upset due to not getting a need met. This way you have shared your feelings and also express the need in you that needs to be met. Now the other person has the choice to meet your need or not.

I love the post. I learned a great deal. Jennifer, you compared this to Everyone Loves Raymond. Hunny!! I live the life of Raymond’s wife. My in-laws live 3 houses away and are just as intrusive. They are very defensive too so knowing this phraseology will definitely help things out. You rock!


Davina December 3, 2008 at 7:09 pm

Hi Lance and Jennifer. I agree. It seems that by dropping the “you” it puts both people on common ground. Then it isn’t about one person being wrong, while the other is right and there is less chance of a misunderstanding.

Davina´s last blog post..When Fear Closes In, Take Action


Marelisa December 3, 2008 at 8:59 pm

This is a great communication tip and it sounds like something I learned while studying mediation. Instead of calling attention to the other person’s conduct, talk about how certain things the other person does make you feel. For example, “When you’re going to be late and you don’t call me I get very worried and I feel that something might have happened to you.”


Evelyn Lim December 3, 2008 at 9:09 pm

“You” sure sounds like pinpointing blame. I have learned to thread carefully in my speech presentation. I learned mine the hard way, of course!! Indeed, skillful delivery of words produces the best results. It also helps that we also take more responsibility over difficult situations, challenges or events. There is less judging of others in this case!

Evelyn Lim´s last blog post..Emotional Secrets To The Physical Body


Lance December 3, 2008 at 9:18 pm

@Maya – Jennifer did great, didn’t she! Great point Maya – it’s in starting this cycle that leads to it endlessly continuing. A great reason for really focusing on not using “you” unless in a complimentary fashion. And, it’s a two-way street. As in, we can control what we say, but we can’t control what others say. That’s a tough one, when someone uses ‘you’ with us – and how do we then respond?

@Laurie – “I’m feeling upset right now. I need ___” — yes, good point Laurie. It acknowledges both a feeling and a need. This doesn’t necessarily make resolution easy, but hopefully it becomes less defensive. And more constructive. So you live “Everybody Loves Raymond”! I learned something new today! Me…I like a “little” space…I’m really glad to hear this was good info for you. And, I have to agree – Jennifer DOES rock!

@Davina – Common ground, a more neutral playing field – these are good things when it comes to communicating with others. “You” can be a powerful and damaging word.

@Marelisa – What I notice in that – is that, while “you” is still there, the focus goes to the “I” and the feeling associated with it. And, that really fits well with what Jennifer has discussed – and changing ‘you’ statements to “I” statements. And with the key being how we feel. That does remove the conduct – and associated anger/guilt/resentment/denial/etc. from the other person. Studying mediation – it’s a life skill Mare!

@Evelyn – When we’re less judging, then we can become more focused on feelings. And with judging less – people will feel less threatened. Or like they are being blamed. I think this all really goes to show how important our communication skills are – look at the damage we’ve seen that one word can do, when used in an improper context…


Jennifer December 3, 2008 at 10:49 pm

Thanks Lance for responding back to these last few in such a great way. There is a great discussion going on here! I hope you don’t mind me saying a little more as well.

Maya, it is really challenging to keep our cool and respond appropriately when someone has used the “you” on us. Using this rule combined with the other assertive post that I linked to above has helped me tremendously. That doesn’t mean it’s not still challenging to me, but at least I know the skills to use.

I have to say to Laurie a good ole’ southern phrase, “Bless your heart!” You are a much better woman than me. My sister used to live this life, until she moved about 30 minutes away. It makes the show even more humorous to me. Oh look, it’s time now for Everybody Loves Raymond. I’m going to turn it on…. BTW – I really like the phrase you mentioned. I’m going to use that.

Davina, that was a good point about it putting everyone on common ground and removing the right and wrong. Sure makes it easier to get things resolved.

Marelisa, I really liked your point and example! I think that I personally would reverse the order of your example sentence just to put the spotlight on me even more.

Evelyn, the more I thought about this post after I wrote it, the more I realized it has so much to do with responsibility. And being responsible does tend to take away the judging aspect.

Again, thank you to Lance and everyone for the compliments and the great discussion. I’m so humbled. I want you all to know that I have learned a lot from you as well.

Jennifer´s last blog post..A Simple Holiday and Life Hack


Jewel/Pink Ink December 4, 2008 at 7:25 am

Hello Jennifer 🙂

My problem isn’t my word choice; if my tone is attacking, my husband will still take offense.

And I wouldn’t be able to blame him then.

Jewel/Pink Ink´s last blog post..Same Day Service


Stephen Hopson December 4, 2008 at 7:40 am

Hey there Jennifer!

I think I know you. LOL. It’s great to see you writing a guest post over here. What a small world. Seems that we are all connected.

I loved this post because you are spot on with helping us be more aware of how the word “you” can sometimes put people on the defensive.

There were some good suggestions in the comment section such as instead of saying “YOU made me feel this way”, you say “I feel this way.” Puts the spotlight on you.

I’ve been practicing this way of speaking for quite some time now and it’s fun to watch people not put up a fight because you haven’t given them any reason to!

Putting the spotlight back on yourself in a potentially uncomfortable situation works wonders because no one can argue with how you feel or what you want to do. But the moment you accuse someone of something “You made me feel this way….” you open up a Pandora’s box of worms, leading to a potential meltdown.

Awesome article! Thanks for sharing – this will come in handy especially during the holidays if you’re hanging around family.

Stephen Hopson´s last blog post..Stephen Hopson Interview with Himself….Again


Liz Rosenbaum December 4, 2008 at 11:31 am

I experienced something the other day that fits into this “YOU” thing and seriously makes me so happy. I was in a down right bad mood this particular day. For some reason, little things just bugged me and added up into a big feeling of “BUG” in my heart. My hubby (who did nothing wrong) was bothering me by something he was doing. The “good angel” inside of me tried to settle down the “nasty angel” that wanted to harp on him. I could feel my blood start to boil, but deep inside of me, I knew the problem was mine… not his. I was on the verge of spitting out “You this… You that…” but my better judgement told me to bite my tongue. However, biting my tongue didn’t calm my irritation, so I left the room, went into my bedroom (that is calming to me) and I grabbed my “thoughts notebook” and wrote down all of the things that were bothering me. It was like I threw up on paper and by the time I was done writing, I felt perfectly calm and peaceful inside! I was so, extremely grateful that I DIDN’T allow my “nasty angel” to spit out mean words to my hubby, because he didn’t deserve them. And after getting all of my frustrations out on paper, I saw clearly all of the wonderful things he does for me and my kids. It was such a wonderful experience and kept our home and our relationship peaceful. It takes a lot of self control at times to bite our tongue and not spit out “YOU’S” – but if we refrain from doing it, life is so much more enjoyable! Thanks for this awesome post!

Liz Rosenbaum´s last blog post..Comment on I Can’t Sleep by Lance


Lance December 4, 2008 at 12:22 pm

@Jennifer – Thank you, Jennifer, for all the follow-up here! We’ve got a great discussion going on amongst everyone, and it’s all been very enlightening for me.

@Jewel – Oh, great point Jewel. Our tone that we use can speak volumes, too. And can be just as damaging as the word choices we make. That’s a good thought to go along with what we’ve discussed here so far, thanks much Jewel.

@Stephen – Hey, I think I know you (wait…I’m not Jennifer!!). Jennifer did great here, though, didn’t she! When you don’t give people a reason to be defensive, it’s just much harder for those confrontational situations to surface. And that’s a very good thing. Not that sometimes we don’t need to confront things, but it doesn’t certainly need to be in an “attacking” mode.

@Liz – That’s just a great story Liz. And it fits this discussion so well. Thank you for sharing it! Sometimes we CAN be irritated by little things – and can “let loose”, only to regret what we’ve said later. What a great thing you did – step away from the situation – and then got the feelings you were experiencing, out onto paper – so that you could see them all. That really is powerful! And another dimension to this whole discussion – how it’s sometimes best to step away – out of the “heat of the moment”. When we talk and are “calm and collected”, the “you’s” are much less likely to come up – and that does makes for a much better relationship! Thanks much for that perspective, Liz!


Stacey Shipman December 4, 2008 at 6:19 pm

My husband and I always joke about people who say “You know what you should do…” We can’t tell people what to do and that is often what happens. I would even argue in one of your examples above that the use of the word “but” is antagonistic. In my experience “but” negates what was said previously.

That said, I agree with the message here. At the end of the day it’s about accountability to ourselves, for our actions. We can share our experiences as long as we don’t “tell” people they need to do the same. Let them make their own informed decision!


Arswino December 5, 2008 at 1:55 am

Great tip! It’s all about how we treat people kindly. Most people are difficult to give compliments to others but Jennifer has explained one of the way, that’s the ‘You” rule, in detail.
Thanks for sharing this, Jennifer.

Arswino´s last blog post..Dare To Make Mistake, The Next Step Towards The Top of Success


Lance December 5, 2008 at 7:24 am

@Stacey Shipman – I really love the point you’ve brought up about “but” being an antagonistic word. It’s one I struggle with – struggle, as in – I know I do use it – however (I almost used it in place of “however” here) – I also try to limit it’s use – because I feel the same way about this word. It seems like “but” can negate everything you’ve said up until that point. I wonder if I do better in writing vs. speaking? I’m not sure – although (I almost used it again!) I’m going to try to pay attention to my language, and in addition to “you” statements, I’ll also concentrate on “but” usage. Stacey, how do you always manage to make me write a whole story in the comments section???

@Arswino – Jennifer did an excellent job on the “you” rule, and it’s really about how we treat other people. If we treat others with the same respect we’d want to be treated with – we can do a much better job of coexisting together.


Stacey Shipman December 5, 2008 at 7:51 am

Lance – some say “however” has similar effects as “but”. In your example: “I know I do it, however….” Consider this:

I know I do it AND I’m trying to limit the use.

No negation – you admit to both. What do you think?

Stacey Shipman´s last blog post..Giving Thanks at Thanksgiving and Beyond


Lance December 5, 2008 at 8:25 am

Stacey, okay, “and” in that case does have a more positive spin! And I completely agree – “and” is an excellent word in replacement of “but” or “however”. Does it always work? I’m not sure it’s always a replacement. It can be, though, in many cases (perfect example – case in point of my use of “however” above – thanks for calling me out on it). So, what do I think? I think “and” is a very good replacement word in many (not all) cases. “And” really does take any negation out of it – and that’s a good thing.


rummuser December 5, 2008 at 9:08 am

What is there to comment on. What a wonderful post. My compliments to Jennifer Abbot.

rummuser´s last blog post..Terror’s first hand experience.


Tammy Warren December 5, 2008 at 11:13 am

Great post. I wonder sometimes how I could work on deleting the words “You should” from my phrase list that I use with my children. This gives me hope and I am sure the change of such simple words could make a huge impact on how people perceive the message in which I am trying to convey.

Tammy Warren´s last blog post..A Glance Into a Year of Blogging


Mark December 5, 2008 at 1:47 pm

I am pretty aware when using the word you(I am weird that way).Often I will make the statement we might want to do this. It seems to get through to an individual with out the resistance. A very nice post!

Mark´s last blog post..The Week Remembered


Lance December 5, 2008 at 4:34 pm

@Rummuser – Jennifer rocked on this one (no surprise here!) – glad you enjoyed it!

@Tammy – It is easy – isn’t it – with our kids – to get into a mode of “you should” with them. It seems like since we’re the parent – we have the right to do this – to tell them what to do. Are we really understanding them, though? Maybe (probably) not. I’m in this boat with you Tammy… And I’m working on it too…

@Mark – Hey, it’s not weird Mark! Well…maybe to some it is. When we get used to speaking this way, though, it is received so much better by the other party. And if that’s weird, it’s weird in a very good way! Jennifer did well (I think I’ve said that before!)!!


GroundedFitness December 6, 2008 at 11:32 am

you know what? i honestly have no idea how often i say you in a non complimentary way. im going to be super conscious of it the next few days and see what a horrible person i am, lol.

Kelly Turner

GroundedFitness´s last blog post..Technical Difficulties


Cath Lawson December 6, 2008 at 12:13 pm

Hi Jennifer – It’s nice to see you guest posting on here. I’ve been working on this, since you first mentioned it. It’s difficult – but your advice has made me more aware of the fact that I am saying these things. Now I just have to work on not doing it.


Stacey / Create a Balance December 6, 2008 at 2:57 pm

A long time ago I learned to structure sentences using “When you…I feel…because…”. It can also be turned around to start w/ “I feel…when you….because”. The point is to focus on your feelings versus the other person’s behavior.

Stacey / Create a Balance´s last blog post..Celebrate Your Life Friday!


Lance December 6, 2008 at 6:25 pm

@GroundedFitness – I realized, too, after reading this that I am really unaware of what I’m really saying. In fact, after reading Stacey Shipman’s commenta about the word “but” – I found myself wanting to use it (but being aware because of her comment I’d just read) – and it made me wonder – how often do I do this in spoken conversation – both the use of the word “but” and “you” in non-complimentary terms. You’re right, Kelly, it’s so easy to not even be aware of what we’re portraying in our spoken word….

@Cath – Like I mentioned to Kelly, above – I, too, have found myself being more aware of what I’m saying. Jennifer did good in making us be more conscious of what we’re really saying. And that’s a win-win!

@Stacey/Create A Balance – That’s great, and I think you’re at the place Jennifer is talking about getting to. And, isn’t that a great place to be – where you can openly share your feelings instead of just blaming others!


avtcoach December 7, 2008 at 12:31 am

Lance, very nice choice for a guest post!! and Jennifer YOU hit it just right, our words are important. I have had to learn this in a variety of ways recently and the YOU does get us into trouble usually without meaning to. YOU make a great point and I will work hard to notice how many YOUs I USE this week!! Great post!

avtcoach´s last blog post..Symbols of Christmas Past


Lance December 7, 2008 at 8:56 pm

@Avtcoach – Thank you! I’ve been realizing in the last few days (since Jennifer wrote this) how much I don’t realize the meaning behind the words I’m saying. That has been a real eye-opener for me. And a powerful lesson in the impact our words can have…


Liara Covert December 9, 2008 at 8:34 pm

This festive season, I am assisting someone who is seriously ill. This redefines ’emotional pain’ in the context of real-life experience. I feel blessed to know this person and also privileged to be by her side, come what may at this stage of her physical journey. The nature of telling her what to do never occurred to me. I choose to be where I am our of love, empathy and compassion. Holidays take a different tone when you sense it is tiring for someone to brush their teeth or do simple things other people take for granted. I encourage everyone to savor the now, whatever you are doing, thinking or feelings. It is valuable.

Liara Covert´s last blog post..7 Ideas to make the most of where you are


Lance December 9, 2008 at 9:56 pm

@Liara – What a wonderful story to share, Liara. And what a truly wonderful gift for you to share! Savoring the “now” – that is such an important thing to remember – because, really, that’s all that’s guaranteed. Thank you, Liara, for sharing this today…


Meow December 14, 2008 at 10:36 am

What an enlightening post, Lance!! You really made me sit back & introspect. There’s so much I need to improve upon. Thanks for the kind reminder.

I visited your blog for the first time today but I am going to come back to it daily(hopefully) from now on..Really loved it!!

Blessed Be,

Meow´s last blog post..The Clock’s Ticking


Lance December 14, 2008 at 7:30 pm

@Meow – Thank you, and the credit for this article goes to Jennifer, who was my guest poster for the day. She did a great job, didn’t she! Check out Jennifer’s great stuff at http://www.principlesforpeace.com/ .


Dot January 2, 2009 at 2:19 pm

@Stacey / Create a Balance already said what I had to say. Psychologists advise using that structure in relationships to avoid blaming and take responsibility for oneself.

Dot´s last blog post..This and That


Lance January 2, 2009 at 3:53 pm

Dot, that’s exactly it – the blaming that comes with this language use! If we avoid it, people become much less defensive…


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