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Quick Tips for Stopping Me-versus-You Language in Critical Conversations

Critical conversations filled with pronouns like me, I, or you may quickly turn divisive and non-inclusive. Me-versus-you language turns ordinary conversations into battles by focusing on the “us versus them” mentality.

Although you may come to a critical conversation with a genuine desire to make things better, not everyone is going to be in the same camp, at least not at the beginning. Recognize that this may happen and be prepared for it. Using the pronouns “we,” “us,” and “our” when you’re talking about decisions and agreements can help create an environment of support and inclusion.

Me-versus-you language is often rooted in different opinions of how to solve a problem or what the problem is in the first place.

For example, the individual may say, “You just don’t understand how hard it is for me to do my job,” or “You aren’t working with these people on a day-to-day basis.” In these situations, it’s often useful to agree that there are different opinions or ideas and to acknowledge that the other party may be right.

You can acknowledge behaviors and words neutrally by saying, “You may be right. You may be facing a situation I’ve never been in before.” These statements address the problem without judgment.

Next, restate the purpose of the conversation and find out whether the other person is willing to work with you. You may try using pronouns like “we” and “us” to show your commitment to working together to solve the problem.

For example, say, “I want to help make the situation better. Are you willing to work together to solve the issue? I know that if we work together, we have a better chance of solving the situation we’ve faced in the past.”

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