Avoiding the I’s

How to be a more selfless communicator.

Picture this—you’re sitting down to write an email to a client, checking in on a project! You’re trying to get some clarification because this particular client wasn’t very clear. You type:

Hey Steve,

I’m reaching out today to follow up on our last conversation. I sent over some materials and was wondering if you had a chance to review them. I would appreciate your feedback, and I’m eager to pass it off to our Operations director so we can proceed with your order!

Thanks so much, 


At face value, the email seems inoffensive, even thoughtful—a polite request to follow up with something a client asked for to get their order in shape! BUT consider this: 

  • Mary used the subject “I” four times. 
  • The email puts everything in the context of what Mary wants—it’s about Mary knowing what’s going on with the order; it’s about Mary wanting to get things to her coworker to make her own life easier; it’s about a sale Mary is excited about. 
  • Only once does Mary group herself with the client (“our last conversation”).

Although receiving this email might not consciously offend someone, it’s not the other-centered, selfless form of communication we train our clients to utilize. Linguistically focusing our communications on others creates a subconscious environment where the other party is more likely to respond, more likely to be honest, and less likely to deflect and avoid sharing their thoughts. An edited version of Mary’s email may read like so: 

Hey Steve, 

This email is a follow-up to our last conversation. Did you have a chance to review the material we discussed? Your feedback is so important, and our Operations director will be able to get your order taken care of as soon as you send it over!

Thanks so much for your time, 


Notice in this email: 

  • Mary doesn’t mention herself a single time! 
  • The entire email is in the context of getting Steve’s order taken care of and helping the Operations director. 
  • There is no pressure to finalize the order outside of getting it to Steve.

    The next time you type out a follow-up email or connect with a prospect, pause to recognize what environment your words create and how they might influence your interactions! 


    Did you learn something new, or perhaps you have a question? We’d love to hear from you!

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