People use the word ‘you’ when they really mean ‘I’.
It helps to distance them from negative emotional experiences, new research finds.
For example, the expression “you win some, you lose some” probably means the person has failed, but that it could happen to anyone.
The pronoun, therefore, helps you to feel better about the experience.
Ariana Orvell, the study’s first author, explained:
“When people use “you” to make meaning from negative experiences, it allows them to ‘normalize’ the experience and reflect on it from a distance.”
Ms Orvell continued:
“Or saying that ‘when you are angry, you say and do things that you will most likely regret’ might actually explain a personal situation, but the individual attempts to make it something many people relate to.”
Ms Orvell concluded:
“We suspect that it’s the ability to move beyond your own perspective to express shared, universal experiences that allows individuals to derive broader meanings from personal events.”
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2003) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do
The study was published in the journal Science (Orvell et al., 2017).