The ‘you-attitude’ – when and how to use it

Introducing the ‘you-attitude’

Without staff, it would be impossible to accomplish organizational goals. How about businesses? How would they be without customers, the people who buy goods and services? Without them, people would not have a job or the money to take care of themselves and their families. A happy customer tells 5 friends, but an unhappy customer tells 10. This article discusses the ‘you-attitude’ style of communication and how it can be useful in business interactions.

Focus on the recipient using the you-attitude

The recipient’s viewpoint

Most communications in a business and other set-ups will be more effective if what is typically called recipient’s viewpoint or the ‘you-attitude’ is employed. In most cases, this simply means looking at the situation from your recipient’s point of view and using the second person pronoun YOU, instead of the first person “I or WE”, otherwise known as the “we-attitude”.

How about the “I” and “we?”

This does not mean that you completely avoid “I” or “we,” just de-emphasize it. The ‘you-attitude’ is a recipient-centered communication. This way, the recipient is made to believe that the most important person – in their correspondence, in their business relationship, – is “you,” the recipient. Indeed, the ‘you-attitude’ helps to keep the recipient happy and ensures that they read/listen to the end.

Remember what you want to achieve from communication

Remember that the goal of communication is to get our recipients to do what we want them to do. It is therefore imperative that we make them believe that they are truly valued and appreciated. This makes the ‘you-attitude’ something more than using the “you” pronoun. It is truly an attitude that we believe.

How the ‘you-attitude’ style of communication makes the recipient do what you want them to

1. The ‘you-attitude’ avoids starting correspondences with “I” or “We” or “Our”

To get off your correspondences to a “you” attitude in a big way and to ensure that the recipient reads/listens to the end, avoid “I” as the first word. By beginning a correspondence with “I,” from the very first word you are saying to your recipient that the most important person in the correspondence is not them, but “I”– the source person.


  • We-attitude: I am happy to inform you that we have approved your application.
  • You-attitude: Congratulations! Your application has been approved.

Notice how the first statement emphasizes what I, the source person, is doing while the second statement emphasizes what is of benefit or value to the recipient.

  • We-attitude: Our fee for secretarial services is:
  • ‘You-attitude’: Fee for secretarial services is…

Notice how the second statement avoids starting off with “OUR”

2. The ‘you-attitude’ looks at things from the recipient’s point of view

Focus on what the recipient receives or can do, not on what we have done. The recipient is more interested in him/herself than in our organization or us. And that is a logical thing. Think about it; when a student receives a letter of admission from an institution, for example, does he or she think about how his or her money will help the institution? I bet not. As a student, one wants to know how the prospective course can help him or her to reach the desired goals.


  • We-attitude: Help us update our records by filling out and returning this form.
  • You-attitude’: For your result slips and other messages of importance to reach you punctually please fill out and return this form.

Notice how the first statement focuses on the source person’s needs, and not on the recipient’s benefits. On the contrary, the second statement focuses on what the recipient will get out of responding.

3. The ‘you-attitude’ is positive

By focusing on what can be done

  • Not: It will be impossible to process your request until you send us a sample signature.
  • But: We will be able to process your request once you send us a sample signature.

By focusing on options that remain

Where possible, always give an alternative when giving negative information.

By avoiding the pronoun” you” within the body

This specifically applies to memos or other reports of that kind. Although the ‘you-attitude’ is typically served by using the pronoun” you”, when your recipient has made a mistake, the ‘you-attitude’ may be better served by using passive voice. The word literally means you, the recipient.

By burying the negative and presenting it smartly

  • Not: You can only use your smart card at our outlets in the capital and some few towns
  • But: You can use your smart card at any of our outlets in the capital. Other towns where you can use it are…

Notice how the second sentence buries the negative.

4. The ‘you-attitude’ emphasizes recipient’s benefit and what the recipient wants to know

Recipient’s benefit tells our recipient how they will be positively affected, by doing business or dealing with us.

Consider these sentences and notice how we may focus away from us and emphasize on the recipient’s benefit.

  • We-attitude: We offer the widest variety of conference facilities in town.
  • We-attitude: We want all new students to use our transport services for at least the first two weeks of the semester.
  • You-attitude’: As a new student, you will not have to drive to school in rush hour traffic for the first two weeks by using our transport services.

5. The ‘you-attitude’ protects the recipient’s ego

Avoid “you” when it seems to pick on the recipient – Instead, talk about the group to which the recipient belongs.

  • Not: ‘You failed to sign your application’ or ‘your application was not signed’.
  • But: ‘Your application arrived without a signature’ or ‘Please stop by to sign your application’

Avoid criticizing the recipient

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