A hotel magnate and NFL owner says he learned this lesson very young and still sticks to it.
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Writing emails has become little different from opening your mouth and letting unedited words flow.
The more we do it, the less we think. The more emails we pump out, the less we stop to think about the recipients.
After all, no one thinks twice about copying us on a thousand dull missives whose second line we never get past.
Still, emails annoy people. But there are ways to make them less annoying.
Jonathan Tisch, co-chairman of the board of Loews Corporation and co-owner of the New York Giants, has a suggestion.
He told The New York Times: “I also learned something in my first month at Loews Hotels in 1980. My boss told me that whenever you’re writing a letter–and it applies to emails today–never start a paragraph with the word I, because that immediately sends a message that you are more important than the person that you’re communicating with.”
Especially detail-oriented readers may have noticed that I decided to quote the whole paragraph because it began with I. Perhaps it shows how hard it is to stick to your own rules, never mind someone else’s.
It’s easy, though, especially in an individualistic culture like America, to have I so heavily on your mind that it obliterates all other basic concepts.
I want. I need. I must get bigger. These are some of the fundamental tenets of American life.
Go big or go home. And when you get home, shout: “I’m home!” just in case someone might think it isn’t the great You.
For Tisch, there’s a real purpose in avoiding the tall, slim, egotistical vowel at the beginning of thoughts.
He said: “When you start to train your thinking about how to not use I, you become a better writer, and it teaches you how to really think through an issue. What are you really trying to say, and how are you going to say it without starting the paragraph with the word I?”
To some, this might feel like semantics. But Tisch surely offers less a writing tip than a thinking cap.
Whether you’re selling, marketing, advising, solving a problem, or building a team, the focus is on someone else.
Indicating clearly though subtly that you are possessed of even a modicum of objectivity or even vague interest in the life of another can’t hurt, can it?