President Obama certainly covered the waterfront in his State of the Union speech last night: immigration, jobs, guns, education, taxes – all held together with several rousing iterations of “let’s get this done” and “they deserve a vote.”
But he did something else. Or rather he didn’t do something else. He didn’t use the word “I” much. We counted a grand total of 28 I’s in the 6900+ word speech.
James Pennebaker of the University of Texas says in his book “The Secret Life of Pronouns” that when you’re feeling confident, you focus on what needs to be done, not on yourself. His research found that confident high-status types use the word “I” less, not more. But even the high and mighty have bad days. Richard Nixon used many more “I” words during the Watergate scandal and Mayor Rudy Giuliani used more “I” words when his marriage fell apart and he found out he had cancer.
So if you want to appear confident and in command the next time you give a speech or make a presentation, avoid the word “I” and instead use the name of your company or your product. In other words, don’t forget to brand.