Have you ever listened to yourself speak to your colleagues or customers? Have you ever just recorded yourself in a standard, nothing-special conversation, and actually listened to what you sound like?
Try this. Record yourself in a typical conversation or phone call and listen closely to what you sound like. More specifically, count your pronouns. Count how many times you say “I” and how many times you say “we” or “you.” The results may startle you.
Why does this matter? We always preach knowing your audience and being “other people focused” in the workplace. We preach listening and trying to anticipate what others think and will care about. We believe knowing your audience is critical to good communication in the 21st century.
But if your speech pattern is dominated by the pronoun “I,” that may be a sign that your mind is more focused on yourself than those around you. If instead you speak with “we” or “you” as dominant, that may be a sign that you are in fact thinking about what matters to others.
Here’s another quick test. After you count your pronouns, then listen for how often you ask questions vs. how often you make declarative statements. If you are asking lots of questions, chances are you care what other people think and are interested in listening. If you make statement after statement after statement, chances are you more interested in being listened to than listening.
Two small tests… how often do you say “I” and how often do you ask questions? If you embrace the fundamental concept that knowing your audience is critical to great business communication, then you will be asking lots of questions, and speaking with inclusive pronouns. If you don’t embrace knowing your audience, then you probably ask fewer questions and make more statements, and will tend to speak with exclusive pronouns.
Try it sometime. It may be illuminating for you.