Another thing that stuck out to me in last night’s debate was the person with which the candidates talked about themselves. In almost every case, they used inherently first-person: “I”, “me”, “my”. I suppose that’s understandable given that we all will vote for an individual on the ballot, but from a communications point of view, it is more connective to use the inclusive: “we”, “us”, “our”.
The vast majority of the tone was things like, “I will do this…” and “I won’t allow that to happen.” I think it would sound better to include the American people with phrases like, “We can’t let this happen…” and “We won’t do this under my watch…” It’s a subtle difference, and perhaps I’m just too cynical to believe that one person can do as much as the candidates claim they can, but I think the public is the one who bears the brunt of the decisions, and thus should be included in the discussion.
It sounded egotistical to me to hear candidates talk about what they will and won’t do, when we know that our government doesn’t work that way, exactly. Another advantage to the inclusive is the ease with which is defensible. It’s OUR problem, then, not just MY problem. And WE can fix it. Suddenly I’m involved, and not just reading newspaper articles watching my future (and my children’s) unfold.
To his credit, Barrack Obama did include some others by naming people he gets advice from. The list was clearly pre-cleared and chosen for specific reasons (and that’s not a bad thing at all). I didn’t hear McCain use a similar list (but admittedly I didn’t watch the whole debate). But even such a list sounds like it’s the exclusive elite running the show (which we know to be the case, but can’t we hope that we truly do have someone working for US in such a position?). I never felt that either candidate made anything involve me, and that’s a communications no-no.
Inclusive language is a must for leadership. Involve your audience by including them in your tone and speech.