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Personal Pronouns: “I” Doesn’t Motivate

Personal pronouns are part of our everyday language. Without using them, conversation and writing would become difficult and cumbersome. Every known human language has and uses pronouns.




Years ago, during my service in the U.S. Army in Korea, my Rest &Recreation trip was to Tokyo. While walking around the city, Tokyo University came into view. Upon entering the campus, a group of students talking animatedly in Japanese came into view and one word seemed to stand out to my untrained ear. The word was “Watashi.”




When the students saw me, several came over to practice their English and it was fun to help them out. Two of them were quite conversant in English and when they offered to help translate, the word “Watashi” came to mind and, in answer to my question, they said that “Watashi” meant “I.”




Not surprising as it certainly seems that one of the most popular words in any language is “I.” Yet that word and its other forms, such as “Me” and “Mine,” can grate on the ear and the psyche when used where other pronouns would convey the same message and, at the same time, motivate others.




Recently, while at a restaurant, the server used “I” more times than one can imagine; to wit, “I have several specials tonight,” “I have three new wines, and “I have some really good desserts as well.” One could be led to think he was a man of many talents with a 24/7 job.




How many times have you heard someone, or for that matter, yourself, use the word “I” when the more encompassing “we” would have been more apt? It is rare that any of our successes have been attained totally and unequivocally on our own. Either we’re standing on the shoulders of our predecessors or we’ve been part of a team or we’ve had tremendous support from others as we’ve achieved things.




The most accomplished quarterbacks and running backs succeed behind, and because of, an accomplished offensive line. The best professional golfers have coaches and expert caddies. Captain Sully Sullenberger had First Officer Jeffrey Skiles and Flight Attendants Sheila Dail, Doreen Welsh and Donna Dent.




During these most difficult times, each of us will have to put out tremendous effort to, in some cases, keep afloat, and in others to buck the trend and achieve modest growth. Either of those outcomes certainly can be considered a success in this economic climate. Yet, even while doing yeoman’s work to achieve that success, others will be there to guide, support, aid or assist.




So, when you look in the mirror, or when someone asks you how you did it, remember that you didn’t do it alone. Consider saying “we” worked hard, it was “our” success, it was truly a “team” effort.




Over the years, it has become quite apparent to me that the best light in which to bask is not the limelight but rather reflected light. That is, the light that reflects back on oneself as the credit for one’s success is freely and happily shared with others.




L. Douglas Mault is president of Executive Advisory Institute, Portland, Ore. The Web site is www.consulteai.com; he can be reached at (888) 428.3331.

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