The paradox of “I” and “we”

Posted on 15. Jun, 2013 by in Constructive living, Leadership


My life coach once asked, why do you so often refer to “we”? “We” did this and “we” think that.

The reason for the question was whether I did not want to take responsibility for what I do, don’t do or think, in which case it is much safer to say “we”.  This made sense. In the past business was more structured and transactional and we did not take much ownership and acted more as messengers.

Business has changed and today taking ownership is in.

I’ve decided to use the word “I” more often and take more ownership and not dilute or hide my responsibility. Being a very inclusive type of person this does not come easy and I still regard this as work in progress.

But then, “I” can also sound so egotistical, especially when you represent a team. “I” did this and “I” think such is fine but when it gets too self-centered and negates the efforts of others, I get uncomfortable.

So which is it then, “I” or “we”?

I suppose it has to do with the motivation behind the word. If you use “we” to dilute responsibility then its wrong but if you use it to describe inclusiveness, then I think its right.

If you use “I” as in me, myself I, in a boasting or egotistical sense, then I have an issue with it, but if you use “I” in a sense of taking responsibility and ownership, then I think its right.

It’s all about the motive…and the balance.

My pet hate is when a waitress comes to my table and asks, how are “we” today – so familiar and paternalistic. Where on earth does that come from?

Sharing stories, Deon