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Daryl Lindsey
March 28, 2017 3:24 pm

The way we talk about past experiences helps us process our emotions – and scientists say there’s one particular word that can help you do it best: “you.” 

The study, published in Science, conducted six linguistic experiments to learn how people process everyday emotions in their lives.

From their experiments, researchers found that using the generic “you” as a linguistic device (“You don’t know what you got till it’s gone,” for example) helps people process heartbreak and other negative emotions more effectively.

"What’s kind of interesting about these studies is people tend to [use the generic 'you'] fairly spontaneously," said study co-author Ariana Orvell.  "It's woven into our language and the way that we try to work through negative experiences."

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According to Orvell, study participants were asked to write about negative experiences, such as losing loved ones or fighting with family members. Nearly half of participants used the generic “you” without being prompted.

Later, researchers asked people to write about lessons learned from negative experiences, randomly assigning some people to use “you/your” and others to use “I/my.” Those who used the generic “you” reported processing the event with less heartache and more psychological distance.

Orvell says people dealing with heartbreak can try writing about their feelings in the generic “you” form to help process the event. Hey, it’s worth a try, right?

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