Elementary Tweaks Make You Persuasive

Ah yes, the days of cursive writing and basic grammar! Subject, action, object. If you apply those early lessons to your own communications you’ll learn a lot about how your requests and instructions are perceived by others.

Do this right now:  click on your email sent box. Scroll down and take a quick note of how many of your sentences begin with the word “I”.  How many of those sentences are actually about you, rather than some process, activity or information?  Now, scroll back to elementary school and remind yourself that any sentence that begins with the word “I” is de facto about you and generally, that’s not the intention.  If the receiver perceives that the information is all about you, even subconsciously, it changes the way they react to it. It’s about you, not about the situation, therefore your relationship comes into the interpretation and the whole thing just gets needlessly messy.

“I’d like to see this first draft by 3 p.m. so the client can have it by 4.”  OR  “The client is expecting to see the first draft by 4 so would you please get it to me by 3 p.m.”

Then, there’s the compounded disinterest that comes from following the word “I” with the word “think” or “need”.  Both these words make the request or suggestion a matter of (a) opinion and (b) personal requirement.  Again, if the information IS about you, great. If the information is purely speculative or opinion-based, that’s fine too. Let’s just be clear what it is we want to say.

It shouldn’t take you more than a few seconds to reframe most of your “I” statements in the more accurate context for the task at hand.  By making this one little tweak you will become instantly more persuasive and more relevant.  Bonus hint: if you can replace the “I” with “you”, the sentence becomes about the receiver and most of the time that’s exactly what you want.

Do try this at home; let me know how it goes!

Don’t forget:  this same sentence structure applies to your verbal communications as well, although that’s harder to track in real time. Chances are if you frame your written communications with the “I” subject, you probably do it when you speak as well.

Joanna Piros