The Deadly Pronoun

Don’t use the pronoun I. Using the pronoun I indicates a person is self-absorbed, arrogant and narcissistic. Skilled communicators do not use the deadly pronoun. Today, substantial persona is established online, thus it’s prudent not to use the deadly pronoun.

Decades of research confirms what Colabria and common sense has been advocating for years. This December 2011 HBR blog is a good example:

Your Use of Pronouns Reveals Your Personality

to wit,

“Pronouns tell us where people focus their attention. If someone uses the pronoun “I,” it’s a sign of self-focus. Say someone asks “What’s the weather outside?” You could answer “It’s hot” or “I think it’s hot.” The “I think” may seem insignificant, but it’s quite meaningful. It shows you’re more focused on yourself. Depressed people use the word “I” much more often than emotionally stable people. People who are lower in status use “I” much more frequently.”

It can be very difficult to remove the deadly pronoun. Give it a try. It’s challenging because it deals with personality and cognition. The personal nature of a social media, blogs and so forth, has absolutely nothing to do with using the deadly pronoun. You just don’t need it. If it is hard for you to remove the deadly pronoun then you have a serious problem that needs attention.

The deadly pronoun has nothing to do with an active or passive voice.

Removing the deadly pronoun from all correspondence is about professional, personal and cognitive development. It’s about respect. It’s about personal growth. It’s not about grammar.

Great communicators have more flair, élan, impact and effectiveness without the deadly pronoun. Improvements are enormous, instantaneous and lasting. Learn how to share with empathy. Allow ideas to flow. Retire the deadly pronoun.

Heavy users of the deadly pronoun will have a negative reaction to this critical advice. Again, these misanthropes are often difficult, congenitally self-absorbed and uncoachable. They are brittle and overweening. We all know one or more. They pursue selfish goals. They are best avoided.


Recall your Greek mythology. Narcissus was arrogant, mean and cruel. To correct the problem, Nemesis, the spirit of divine retribution against those who succumb to hubris, cursed Narcissus with self-love. Upon seeing his reflection in a pool, Narcissus became obsessed with his image. This madness killed him.

Overuse of the deadly pronoun indicates a narcissistic personality disorder. The afflicted have an inflated sense of their own importance and a deep need for admiration. They believe they are superior to others. They use the deadly pronoun a lot.

Narcissists are fountains of hyperbole and tall jargon. They are heavy users of the deadly pronoun. They are common in the business consulting and so-called ‘thought leadership’ precincts. Beware. Narcissists will hurt your business, relationships and objectives. The deadly pronoun is a dead giveaway.


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