Make It About Them, Not You

A wonderful way to change the focal point of your remarks – and put the emphasis where it should be – is to replace the word “I” with “you.” Here’s a classic example from Steve Jobs and the team at Apple:

“Here's to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently…You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can't do is ignore them.” 

Jobs could have said “I can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing I can't do is ignore them.” By turning the tables, he invites us into the conversation.

A similar trick is to replace “I” with “we.” Check out this example from Boris Johnson, the former Mayor of London. In this 2016 speech, he was advocating for BREXIT (i.e., that the United Kingdom should leave the European Union).

“Thanks to the referendum given to this country by David Cameron, we find that a door has magically opened. We can see the sunlit meadows beyond. I believe we would be mad not to take this once in a lifetime chance to walk through that door because the truth is, it is not we who have changed. It is the EU that has changed …”

[Photo Credit: Karla Alexander]

[Photo Credit: Karla Alexander]

What I like about this excerpt is how Johnson uses “we” to create allies. A “magical door” has somehow opened. If we walk through it together, he seems to say, we’ll all get to the “sunlit meadows beyond.”

Notice too that Johnson is not saying follow me. He’s asking folks to move ahead in step with him.  Whatever your thoughts on BREXIT, using “we” in this passage makes his argument more persuasive. (And, well, the vote for BREXIT passed as we all know.)

Next time you’re preparing a presentation, do that one final and supremely important edit. Search for “I” and replace it with “you” or “we.”  It may take you all of two minutes (tops!), but it’ll leave a lasting impression with your audience.


Try this easy trick in your next speech. For more speaking hacks, click here to subscribe, email, or follow me @RKing_Portland. -- Rose