Why there's no 'I' in 'team' but there is 'me'

Keeping an eye on ‘I’

Engaging. Charming. Compelling. We’d certainly like others to use any one of these three adjectives to describe us. But we’ve all been there, haven’t we? Either listening to, or reading about, someone telling you all the things that they want, need, think, do, writes Kay White, of mentoring and communications firm Way Forward Solutions.

“Well, I went here and I said that and then I did this and then I said that. Well, I mean, who do they think I am?I said ‘well, I want to introduce this now’ and I was adamant. So eventually, I finally got what I wanted.”

Now as you read that back and notice that, in reality, whilst a fairly strident bit of dialogue, it’s entirely possible to hear that every day.Eleven times the word ‘I’ appears – and not once the word ‘we’, ‘you’, ‘us’, ‘our’.

We’re all tuned to WII FM

Speaking too much ‘I’ is one thing:dull.You can pick up the ‘I’s clearly enough through hearing, but seeing an army of them of on a page is much more unforgivable.In written form, they are just too easy to spot. Any reader can scan through a message – email, letter, report, article and too many ‘I, I, I’ will just switch them off.We all want to know where we fit in, how it affects us, what’s in it for us. In other words - WII FM – What’s In It For Me? It’s been called something along the lines of ‘the radio show everyone’s listening to.’

So, be careful with the word ‘I.’“I this, I that, I do, I want” and particularly when it’s in writing.You can scan your own emails and pick them up and rest assured, people reading it will notice it.

Here’s the rub:In general, people don’t care so much about what we think, want and need as much as they care about what they think, want and need.Tough for some of us to hear I know, but, if we’re really honest with ourselves, we know people really care about what they think, want and need. They are always – as we are – filtering it through ‘WII FM?’So make it more about them, less about you.So remember, you’re still in there as party with thoughts and feelings, but it doesn’t have to be all me, I, my. You’re far more engaging and compelling to other people if you make it more about them.

So when should you use ‘I’?

The most acceptable usage is to make the story, issue or subject in hand personal with ‘I’ and then relate it to ‘we.’ So it becomes, for example “I’m so thrilled I’m invited to X’s meeting too.You know it’s going to be good and we’ll learn something about what’s going on.I’ll make sure the team knows the headlines as soon as I get back.”Notice how it’s become less about ‘I’ and more about ‘us’ and ‘them’.

‘We’, ‘our’, ‘us’ is inclusive language.It gives the listener/reader the sense that we’re in this together, that they’re included.‘We did’, ‘we know’, ‘as a company we’re striving to’, versus ‘I’, ‘I’m’, ‘me’, ‘mine’ and ‘my’ – for the listener/reader it becomes so exclusionary and, well, dull!

‘There’s no I in team’ the adage goes, – but there is ‘me’, if you look hard enough!A cute play on the words and a trick I know.Though it’s one to tell yourself as a reminder that you, as an individual, are in there; you’re part of the team – whatever your team happens to be, professional, family, sports or social. But if you are part of a team, it’s not all about you and only you, is it?Or is it?!

Article, reproduced with permission, by Kay White, communications expert and mentor at www.wayforwardsolutions.com . Kay shows professionals how to get quicker more profitable results and build stronger connections by becoming a more effective, influential and savvy communicator. Kay’s first book, The A to Z of Being Understood is a Number 1 Amazon Bestseller for Customer Service.



17th August 2011

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