It’s all in how you say it…

by jen on November 10, 2014

elsie saysI have always found that ”you statements” are counterproductive to effective communication. Such statements as” you never do the dishes!” practically guarantee that the subject of the statement will never do the dishes. I have been known to slam a door like a bratty teen who’s been grounded just in time for the homecoming dance at the sound of “you need to…” or “you should…” Really. Don’t tell me to do anything unless there’s a kitten attached to it.

These “you statements” are often used to pass negative judgment, and they trigger defensive reactions, like possibly voting against a public policy initiative. According to a new study by Columbia University psychologists, public policy proposals that addressed ”people” sparked support in the research subjects far more than when a policy used the second-person plural. A policy is likely to be more effective if people don’t think they’re the target, rather, the policy is inclusive. It’s about them, and all of us  — not just you. 

“When phrasing of the rationale for public policy uses the second-person plural, and thus induces participants to consider themselves one of the targets of these policies, support for them drops,” contends James Cornwell and David Krantz in the journal Judgment and Decision Making.

So, these little grammatical nips and tucks — the how something is said — can actually make all the difference in how you get support for the things you say. 






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