Adapted from Effective Communication Skills in the Workplace: How to Use Tiny Words that Pack a Mighty Punch by Joy Huber

“You’re the one who messed this project up.” “You didn’t turn in the report on time.” “You forgot our 4-year anniversary!”

I don’t know for certain about you, but these sentences automatically make me want to throw my hands up like, “Whoa, I’m under attack!” and duck and run for cover! Can you imagine if they were also said in a loud volume, with a sarcastic or condescending tone, or with negative body language like somebody pointing at me? Yikes!

A quote I love sharing in keynotes and training simply states, “If you do what you have always done, you will get (the results) that you have always gotten!” Basically, if you’re trying to bring about better or different results either professionally or personally think about what you’re going to change at the forefront to see enhanced results in the end.

I always teach that when you have a BAD NEWS message please don’t start that with You! We are only human after all, and You + BAD NEWS automatically triggers that internal “fight or flight” response in other humans! Think about it . .

How many times have you said, “You’re late with the report again.” And the other person comes right back at you with a You + Bad News message. An example could be, “Oh, yeah, well, YOU didn’t give me enough time to complete my part of the report!” It typically goes downhill from here! Isn’t this the fight piece of the response, but instead of using our fists we are using our mouth and words as weapons in this battle?

Or, the individual says, “I can’t deal with this right now.” as it escalates and they storm out of the room? This is the flight piece of the equation. There should be a better more effective way!
I teach when you have BAD NEWS to convey simply put an “I” in front of it. Try to refrain from saying “you” in the sentence at all if you can; this isn’t always entirely possible! Great examples of this include statements such as, “I have a concern I need to address.” Vs. “You’re always late.” How about if you said “I have some feedback I’d like to share.” Vs. “You don’t treat us all the same.” “You play favorites!”

So BAD NEWS = I. Can’t I ever use you when starting a sentence you may ask? Certainly!
When you have GOOD NEWS this is an opportunity to use “You.” “You did a great job updating the web site!” “You really made me feel special with that gift.”

So GOOD NEWS = YOU. How about we? When are some good times to use this?
We implies “You and I” so great times to use this are when you want to imply a partnership or put yourself on the same side as someone. This could be your significant other or spouse, co-worker, or even external customer. I love we because it facilitates the team vs. me against you and the continued operation of us in distinct silos not communicating or working together!

“How can we improve our working relationship?” is a sentence I have long effectively used, especially with co-workers you don’t get along with the best. We implies we are in it together or on the same side. To me, “working relationship” implies “If I see you at the mall this weekend, I may not rush up to have a conversation with you, because we’re really very different . . but . . 7 a.m. – 5 p.m. we need to communicate well and show respect for what each person brings to the corporate table!” Now the aforementioned example may be used with a co-worker; what about a customer situation? Phrases including, “How can we resolve this concern?” put you in that partnership with your customer vs. “us vs. them.” “What we can do is . .” is another great example.

Like many things in life, sometimes it’s the tiny stuff you do or implement that really matters and makes a huge difference! I challenge you to become real cognizant and aware of what words you are using in day-to-day professional and personal conversations and where you see an opportunity craft a conversation or let a statement in accordance with these principles roll off your tongue. You’ll be pleased with the response from your communications partner!

Author's Bio: 

Joy Huber – “Ms. En’Joy’able” - is an award-winning Speaker & Business Communications Expert

For more great information, check-out my CD Programs:
“An Interview with Joy Huber, Business Communications Expert” and “Talk to the Hand: A Woman’s Guide to Truly Thriving Amongst Difficult People” when you visit JoyHuberOnline. Or email me at

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