Integrity Matters
May 7, 2008

Keep an eye for an "I"

Question: (E-342)

Andy Rooney, the octogenarian from Sunday evening's "60 Minutes," provides commentary at the end of the broadcast. His remarks can be informative, irritating or inspirational - sometimes all three. Regardless, he makes me think. Perhaps my reflections on the use and abuse of the word "I" will do the same for you.

The "Me Generation" transcends birth years. It includes egotists and narcissists of all ages. To learn of their savage use and abuse of the one-letter word "I," please cut me some slack before you overreact. Two illustrations will make the point. Below are two letters (e-mails), one from a "big-ticket" sales manager and the other from a recent "prestigious school" MBA graduate and a candidate for a position at a Fortune 20 corporation.

Having communicated to a prospective buyer that a delayed response to his phone calls was not quite up to his standards, this sales person had the audacity to send this e-mail, explaining his own difficulties in being prompt:

Hi Ms. --
I was off yesterday.
I just saw your e-mail.
I will be going next Wednesday to hunt for your item.
I will also call so-and-so and see if I can get what you requested.
I will let you know what I find out.
Mr. --

And retail owners scratch their heads, wondering why they are losing sales! Ego and arrogance are getting in the way. Mostly, this is slovenly thinking, lacking any tone of graciousness. How sad!
So, you say, maybe this only happens in the rough-and-tumble world of retail sales. Not so fast. Here are some excerpts from an e-mail sent by an individual soon to receive a master's degree from a very expensive graduate school of business. Attempting to "secure a job," this "all about me" self-absorbed scholar digs an even-bigger hole for himself with a typo (see capabilities, misspelled below):

  • Hi - potential employer
  • I appreciate the time you spent with me today to discuss my background
  • I believe that my experiences and capabilites (misspelled word, didn't proofread)
  • I have an excellent track record of leading large teams effectively
  • I realize it's late in the process
  • I am hopeful
  • I welcome the opportunity
  • I mentioned in our call,
  • I will be in (in your city) again next Monday and I can be available for meetings
  • I really enjoyed our discussion today.
  • Signed, The Candidate

Two simple responses are missing: please and thank you. Where is the word we? Success is more likely to come to those who avoid too much "I" in writing, speaking and in attitude.


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