Chris Markiewicz's Blog
Every Monday – thoughts, observations and ideas that hold up a mirror to who & how we are

Is “you” the problem?

Have you ever been poked in the chest? Do you enjoy being poked in the chest? Somehow, I doubt it. Yet, so many of us do it to each other on a regular basis. In fact,  I did it big time to my partner just yesterday morning.

 I realise that I have probably confused you, so I shall clarify.

 What I am referring to is a verbal poke in the chest. More specifically, the use of the word “you” – what could be termed a “you poke”. When this word is used in contexts such as the following, it can be likened to an aggressive poke in the chest:

 “Why haven’t you done what I asked you to do?”

“Why don’t you just get on with it”

You were the one who said….

You’re late Where have you been”

You should have thought of that before you…….”

 Such accusatory use of the second person singular is hugely confrontational and invasive. It significantly ups the risk of an argument or conflict developing. Most of us don’t like to be confronted in this way just like we don’t like to be poked in the chest. Sure, some people are meek and others can deal assertively with such verbal prods, but most of us are likely to react by hitting back or becoming entrenched. This does little to resolve things.

 If you happen to watch Eastenders on TV, chances are you will observe the word “you” used in this way any number of times in a given episode. Why? It makes things more dramatic, satisfies the viewer’s prurient desire to observe such drama being played out on the screen. The scary thing is, that there is a risk that we then emulate that in real life. It is incredibly destructive and serves only to keep us locked in the right/wrong, good/bad duality which nourishes the salacious appetite of any nasty conflict.

 So, what’s the alternative? Honest, open expression of how we feel along with what it is we we would like to happen instead – based on our needs. So, for example, rather than saying You’re late, where have you been?” it could be reframed into “When I’m kept waiting with out any word, I feel frustrated and angry and I’d really like to know if there’s likely to be a delay”.

 Now, that may sound a bit clunky and unnatural to you, however it’s only because many of us simply aren’t used to engaging in this way. When hurt, angry or inconvenienced we can so easily default into the blaming and judgmental use of  language as typified by the “you poke”.

 This alternative approach does take a while to become comfortable, yet we have to start somewhere. The row I had yesterday morning, fuelled by my  “you poking” my partner did greatly disturb me, partly because I teach this stuff! But, hey sometimes this kind of improvement in communication can be most difficult with our nearest and dearest! Ironic.

 So. as a final piece of advice I suggest you stop doing it. You should know better.

Whoops, I’ve done it again!


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