How Often Do You Say “I”?
It shouldn’t be surprising, but one area of research has to do with how much people use the word “I”. What sounded like a foolish research project really had some interesting results. One study found that the more people refer to themselves in conversation, the less sure they are of themselves. That makes sense–if I am less sure of myself, I probably have an unconscious need to do some self-promotion.
Although that was one of the main findings of the research, that’s not always the case. Sometimes we use a lot of “i’s” because we are being more self-reflective. At other times, we will use more “I” statements because we are in physical or emotional pain. But typically, as the results of the studies showed, those who use “I” a lot are more self-conscious, more insecure, or are just trying harder to please.
One study looked at email communication in a military setting. The reults were the same as studies that based the findings on the status of the individuals. In the military study, they found that communication from those in the higher ranks used “I” less than those in the lower ranks. It’s seems like it may be the same as the status thing–to use fewer “I’” statements.
One would think that those with narcissistic disorders would self-reference themselves more than others. They seem so self-absorbed. But the studies found that narcissists didn’t use “I” any more than any other group. Like with others, the use of “I” was based more on status issues. Exceptions in the research showed that younger people used ‘I” more often, as did those who are more caring of others. Also, women who tended to be more self-reflective used “I” more.
The one place a lot of “I’s” are not used is in marriage. Marriage counselors try hard to get couples to use “I” statements, but couples typically fall back on their old standby–”you!” And the more “you” and the less “I”, the more problems the couple have to work out.
Now that I’ve made you more self-conscious of how you use the word “I”, it will be interesting to see if you use it too much or too little. Maybe the answer is just to be more aware of how you use “I”, especially if you’re married
Question: Compared to others around you, how often do you think you use the word “I” in normal conversation? How about in your marriage conversation?