Showing posts from June, 2019

Speaking: Why You Need to be Careful with "We"

In his 1946 book “ How to be an Alien ”, the Hungarian-born British writer George Mikes tells a story about how newly naturalized citizens need to be careful about their use of we , us and ours . After hearing that 22 planes had been shot down, someone asked ‘What – ours?’, to which his English hostess answered icily ‘No – ours’. When I am coaching speakers or rewriting their speeches I am often reminded of this anecdote when I notice an ambiguous use of “we”. This is surprisingly common, but it can easily confuse or mislead an audience. At the very least it can be distracting because your brain is momentarily occupied trying to work out who “we” are exactly.  Imagine, for a moment, a product launch keynote by the CEO of the fictional Acme Computers. The CEO admits that “… we need to do more about privacy”. What precisely this means depends entirely on who “we” are. It could mean all of humanity, it could mean the people in the room, it could mean her company or it coul