Do you remember English class? We learned about modifiers, adjectives, adverbs, nouns, verbs and dangling participles. Diagramming sentences was a daily occurrence and understanding predicates and prepositions wasn’t far behind. And how about the way we got down in the weeds with relative clauses and rolled in the mud with non-defining or non-essential clauses? But my all-time favorite exercise in phonology involved the schwa. Which brings us to pronouns.
Pronouns are a major element of entrepreneurship. As peculiar as this may sound you’ll soon understand how very true this statement is. The next paragraph is a montage of snippets from speeches given by a very famous entrepreneur who happens to be running for president. Move past any ideological dispute you may have with this individual – that’s not the point. Instead, pay attention to the language and in particular, the pronoun usage.
“I have lobbyists. I have lobbyists who can produce for me. I have so many websites. I have them all over the place. I hire people, they do a website. It costs me $3. I will be the greatest jobs president that God ever created. I’ll bring back jobs from China, from Mexico, from Japan, from so many places. I’ll bring back our jobs, and I’ll bring back our money. I’m using my own money. I’m not using the lobbyists. I’m not using donors. I don’t care. I’m really rich. I am a nice person. I give a lot of money away to charities and other things. I think I’m actually a very nice person. I’m proud of my net worth. I’ve done an amazing job. I’ve employed tens of thousands of people over my lifetime. I’m proud of my net worth. I would build a great wall, and nobody builds walls better than me, believe me, and I’ll build them very inexpensively. I will find the guy that’s going to take that military and make it really work. I will stop Iran from getting nuclear weapons.”
I’ve selected these quotes because they overdramatize the point I’m trying to make. Notice the manner in which pronouns are used. This particular entrepreneur speaks in what I call I, Me and My language. I, Me and My language can sound arrogant and insensitive, and likely reflects the way a person thinks. Gracious and humble people don’t speak this way. They realize that it takes a team filled with talented people to succeed.
There is an alternative language that can be spoken by entrepreneurs. It’s called the We, Our and Us language. It recognizes the collective efforts and contributions of many. I’ve been working to perfect this language for many years and it has made me very much aware of how easy it is to slip into I, Me and My. Whenever I write a memo or an e-mail, I always review it before sending to replace the references to I, me and my, with we, our and us. I have come to realize how this simple act is an acknowledgement of others. And the more I write this way, the more I tend to speak this way as well. Ultimately, writing and speaking leads to thinking in this language which completes the conversion.
The entrepreneurial pronouns of we, our and us help build strong and positive relationships with others. Spreading the credit through inclusive language generates more goodwill than any amount of money could buy.
This blog is being written in tandem with my book, “An Entrepreneur’s Words to Live By,” available on Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle (My Book), as well as being available in all of the other major eBook formats.