Pronouns

Photo by Portuguese Gravity on Unsplash

There’s a lot of talk about pronouns going around. A lot of commotion, actually. And I’d like to add to the noise, while also making this missive about you.

In order to continue, I must first confess: I have a major problem with all the pronouns used these days…that lack clear antecedents. Yes, we English-speakers are a guilty people. We go overboard. Far too often pronouns are flung about haphazardly within a sentence — without anchor, without tether to a previously-appearing, easily-identified, full-bodied noun.

Grammarians say that there are three common reasons for unclear antecedents: multiple possible antecedents, unstated/assumed antecedents, and unconscious bias.

I’d like to add another reason to the list: laziness. And this fourth reason concerns you.

We are lazy, leaders (and perhaps such laziness, in the moment, may disqualify us from leading?), when we say to another human being, as an expression of gratitude, “I appreciate it.”

It: the insidious poster child for ambiguous communication.

When we say, “I appreciate it,” just what is it that we appreciate, exactly? The attempt? The result? The concern? The effort? The time? The demeanor? The understanding? Something else? Nothing at all?

The possibilities are endless. And therein lies the problem.

Saying “I appreciate it” reminds me of when, in Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Ring, Bilbo Baggins says “Good morning,” to Gandalf, and Gandalf replies: “What do you mean? Do you wish me a good morning, or mean that it is a good morning whether I want it or not; or that you feel good this morning; or that it is a morning to be good on?”

So don’t do it, leaders. Use you. Just like this: “I appreciate you.”

Simple, right? It and you are both monosyllabic words, so no additional strain on your voice when saying you. And if you’re writing or typing, you requires only one character more than it, so no additional strain on your wrist or fingers.

Plus, using you makes appreciation more specific, which makes appreciation more authentic, which makes appreciation more consequential.

And if a person doesn’t care if his/her appreciation is consequential, meaningful, then is said person truly appreciative? It..seems not.

So don’t risk it, leaders. Don’t risk coming across as insincere with your appreciation — just because of your pronoun choice, your unclear antecedent. For if teammates begin to disregard your kind words, their disregard for your tough words is not far behind.

Pronouns was originally published in Horizon Performance on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.