The Use of “You” . . . The Disciplines Differ, As Do We! ©

“Invest.”  [Might this imply “you need to invest?”]?
“Try!”  [Possibly, this implies “you need to try, or you need try this!].
“You must” . . . think, say, do, feel, or be as the speaker believes is right and correct.

What might these expressions arouse?
What might these statements stimulate?
How might these words alter the dynamics between the speaker and the person that these are said to?
Then there are these similar statements . . .

“You need to . . .”
“You should . . .”
“Might I suggest to you . . .?
“Have you thought to . . .?”
Were these words ever said to you?  Did you truly believe that the words were said with love, care, concern, and compassion?  Were these words intended as constructive criticism?  Might you have convinced yourself that these were expressions of kindness, knowing, or wanting to believe that they were spoken by someone that you would imagine, loves you?  Did these words create a connection between you and the person that passed these judgments?  Did you sense the serenity of [mutual] understanding?

Possibly, when words such as these are said to you, you feel that the speaker is outside your mind, heart, body, soul, and spirit; they could not possibly know what is best for you, or why you choose as you do.  Did they consider that you had thought of these possibilities prior to their sharing?  Did they ask?  Do they truly care or know of your thoughts, feelings, experiences, or did they simply state what they believe is best and therefore desirable [for them]?

Their words may seem as dictums.  Psychologists, social scientists, and those that research human development caution us all to consider the use of the word “you” when speaking with others.  The use of “you” may be and is often experienced as a command, a demand, and often creates defensiveness.  People tend to react when they are told what they might “try,” “invest in,” “must,” “need to,” or “should,” think, say, do, feel or be.  Reactions are the result of fear or hurt, and I wonder why would we wish to speak in a manner that might cause fear or hurt another.  Why would we presume, assume, or believe that we could possibly truly know the history, thoughts, feelings, experiences of anyone, even ourselves.  Are we not each evolving, even within?

When words wield as a judgment, as though another knows what is best for us, we resent, rebel, revolt, and often react in destructive manners [those that are destructive to others and to ourselves.]  I believe that beings are interesting souls; they believe that they know what is best for themselves and others and often, if they choose to be reflective, they discover that they are in error.

What, for me, initially created what I now experience as an error in my own use of the word “you,” began in elementary school.  In early English classes I was told, as many of us were, never to write in the “first person.”  Only those that are egocentric, self-centered, or even the dreaded “conceited” use the word “I.”  Who among us would wish to bare the burden of these labels; it certainly is not me.  For decades, I followed this decisive didactic.  I wrote and spoke in generalizations, using “you” to speak of the whole, considering that this represented an openness to the universal, us, as a whole, we . . . you [and possibly, an implied, “I”.]  I did as I was taught to do, and I trusted that the words of others [educators and those elders that must know] were correct, caring, and constructive.

Then the worst occurred, and I discovered that it was the best for me.  I met a man and it began, a relationship that was so bad that I did not even realize that I was in a relationship!  [More writings on that will be offered later, in future bloggings.]  This man has life experiences far different than my own; he was the black to my white, the dark to my light and yet we were similar.  I saw myself in him, just as when one looks in a mirror, the reflection is reversed.  He shared that his world, beginning as a child, was one of criticism, cutting comments, and cruelty in the name of kindness or so his history seemed to him.  Therefore, these became his filter; he interpreted his feelings through this expectation, even if these were not the intent of another’s expressions.

The depth of my feelings and the extreme manner in which this man might interpret my meanings created a need or a want for me to consider what I had never known, what a word means to us, is not what it means to another!  What we believe is natural, universally understood, or “as it is,” is not, for another.  For the most part, when we as beings relate, we do so through our own unique history, our own emotions and experiences, and the essence of how these effect us.  We forget or we are not aware that another’s world is not ours, that when we use “you” we are generalizing from our own “self.”  While we as beings may be similar, none of us is ever the same as another.

Meeting this man, having this experience, was the cause for my reading, research, reflection, and realizations.  The depth of my caring caused me to consider what I had not.  I considered what part I play in a partnership.  I realized that every exchange is a partnership.  With this reflection and realization, I could not help but conclude that when I use the word “you” in speaking with, or writing to another, I am eliminating empathy.  When I use the word, “you” it seems a dictum and creates defensiveness.  The person reading or hearing “you” may feel slightly disturbed, truly dismissed, diminished, and denied of their unique thoughts, feelings, experiences, and worth.  Granted, people have perfected not necessarily revealing their reactions; however, there is a reaction.

Intellectually, I knew that the disciplines of English and Psychology differ in their assessment of the use of “you” and the reactions that these might create.  I knew, and yet . . . for me, the knowledge was not integrated into my awareness or actions.  Personal experiences alone offered ample opportunities for me to assess that people prefer to choose what is right or correct for them and that the use of the word “you” does not seem to offer that freedom.  Nonetheless . . .

For me what is folly, fascinating, and even funny is that your, mine, or our actions, reactions, often occur without awareness.  It seems that what many of us think, say, do, feel, and are, is often not consistent, integrated, nor have we internalized what we intellectually know.  We claim to be sensitive to others, and to our selves, and yet we often do not realize that what you, I, or we choose creates the chaos, trauma, and drama that intellectually we would never wish for.  Do you, I, or we consciously consider that our own choices will create what comes?  How often do your, mine, or our choices create calm, serenity, and peace?  Might we not prefer peace?  How often do choices create the contrary?  How often do we create what, consciously, we do not crave?  Humans, for me, are quite humorous!!!

If we think through the humor of our own edicts and errors, I believe that we all will experience the comedy of life and learning.  I did, and I am.  The emotional effects of my experience with this man were enormous and the affect was life altering, hooray!!!  Happiness grew, I grew, all in my world was more whole, more wonderful, more meaningful, and I experienced an enlightenment that I never imagined.  I learned that empathy is the best educator and the truest teacher!

To empathize I must realize that I can only speak for myself.  I can and do care for and of you when I do not speak for you!  Therefore, I propose that using “I” may not be egocentric; it is the contrary.  If I speak for “you,” if I state what “you must, need to, or should” think, say, do, feel, or be, than am I not egocentric, believing that I know what is best for you?  Now, I believe that when “I” consciously choose to honor “you,” I must express my beliefs as my own, acknowledging that we are different, just as the disciplines are.  When I write in first-person I am expressing that my thoughts, feelings, sayings, doings, and being are mine alone!  I cannot choose for “you” or for others and thus, “I” use “I,” rather than speak for, or choose for, "you!

Towards a desire to grow and glow greater, together, I write this reflection.  A comment, a constructive criticism, a communication, and one that I consider the catalyst for a possible convergence, stimulates this sharing.  The comment was offered  . . .
Anonymous said…

“Invest in the uses of adding ‘oomph’, and maybe a little humor, to your writings.  An essay is not just words to mull over; they must inspire.
You refer to yourself constantly – for example: ‘I am a person that chooses consciously not only to be; I choose to think.’  Try:’ You must not only choose to be; you must also choose to think.’ -av²”

Ah, what we do not know and assume, when we do not ask another of their history, heart, and head, when we presume to know what is within another and or best for them.  My hope is that sharing this personal reflection will inform.  Yes, I have researched, read, reasoned, and reflected, thus realizing that the use of the first-person point-of-view is, for me, vital.  The process that led to this preference was an avid pursuit.  When the effects of wisdom and words became personal, my pondering began.  The evolution was more than interesting; information was internalized.

Anonymous, possibly “you” too will reflect and realize what happens when people profess to know “”you”,” to know who “you” are and what is best for “you.”  Possibly, “you” might experience how “you” can accidentally hurt one that “you” love when “you” profess to know what is best for them, as though “you” know what they “must,” “try,” or “invest in” better than they might know for themselves.  Possibly, “you” will, as I did, recognize that only we know what is best for us.  Possibly.  Then, “you” too will internalize information that “you” know intellectually.  Whether “you” do or do not, I thank “you” for being the cause for this possible need to clarify.  I experience that every exchange is a cause.  There will be an effect, though frequently invisible, and this effect will affect each of us for the better, “you,” and me.

“It is with the heart that ones sees rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye,”
From The Little Prince, By Antoine de Saint-Exupery
? Exploring the Invisible and the Intellectual, Emotional Intelligence, by Daniel Goleman