The Agilist Network

Tales and Tips from Agile Software Projects

Best Practice: Use First Person Plural

Posted by kenhoward on May 31, 2007

Quick grammar lesson:

1st person singular: “I…”
2nd person singular: “You….”
3rd person singular: “He/She…”

1st person plural: “We…”
2nd person plural: “You…”
3rd person plural: “They…”

A general observation about people’s perception of our communication style:

  • 1st person singular is arrogant and boring. Watch people’s eyes glaze over when you say “I this” and “I that”.
  • 2nd person is nagging. People tend to get defensive and raise their guard when they hear “You this” and “You that“. It can also make you seem to be astute and all-knowing.
  • 3rd person is gossip. Be careful when you talk about others. If you say something critical or mean, you’re an evil gossip. If you say something nice, make sure you’re sincere!
  • 1st person plural is a great tool for earning collective buy-in for whatever you have to say. When I work with a customer I usually adopt “we” immediately, so they see me as a one of the team, a member of the family, someone who has the same skin in the game that they do. It can help you avoid consultant/contractor alienation.
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