Wednesday, May 26, 2010

WHAT IS AN "I STATEMENT?"

A couple who has been married for many years and has been to several marriage counselors were in my office the other day. Because of the previous counseling I assumed that they knew the term "I statement" as we were discussing their communication skills. However, I was surprised when the husband looked at me quizzically---"What the heck is an 'I statement'?"

This exchange helped me to remember that maybe this is not as common knowledge as I previously assumed. So...just what is an "I statement?"

An I statement is a way to express your feelings and your thoughts by starting with the pronoun: "I..."
it is a way to lessen defensiveness and to more clearly express what you want, what you need and allows you to take ownership for your feelings and thoughts. Often times when we want to communicate (especially about difficult feelings) we start with "You...".
Think back to a time when someone started a converstation with you with "You..."
Unless it was "You are great! You are a fantastic person!", it probably raised your blood pressure a bit right?
When we hear a converstation especially one that requires us to do something or become aware of something that begins with YOU as in:

You didn't take out the garbage last night...
You are always late...
You had better get up...
You need to listen to me...
You hurt my feelings...
Your parents are rude...

the tendency is to immediately become defensive. When we become defensive, then we become almost unable to listen openmindedly and respond appropriately. However, when we hear:

I am worried that the garbage won't be picked up...
I don't want to be late...
I want to let you know that the alarm went off,
I felt bad when you left me at the party last night...
I felt sad when your mom said...

It allows the listener to better understand what YOU are feeling and what YOU are thinking--in other words it takes the focus off of your partner and her behavior and allows her to understand you better. It then allows him the opportunity to change his behavior because he wants you to feel better and wants to help meet your needs. It also promotes closeness, understanding and acutal problem solving.

Try this template next time you want to discuss your thoughts and feelings:


I feel...............when.............because............what I would like is........if you would be willing to do that, then I will..........


Of course, it always helps if you add a "soft start up" to an I statement such as Dear, Honey, Puppy or whatever term of endearment you use in your relationship!

Try it and see what happens....let me know...

1 comment:

  1. Good post! I have learned that "I statements" are definitely more effective than the "you statements".

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