There are times when we need to tell someone how we feel. It may not always be the most comfortable conversation, but it is one of the ways that we can honour our own needs in relationship. The “I” statement is a way that we can deliver a message more effectively; it shifts the direction away from blame and instead focuses on how the behaviour or choice of another has made you feel.
“When you consistently show up late for our plans, it makes me feel disrespected.”
“When you call me names when we’re arguing, it feels demeaning.”
“I feel frustrated when I have to ask you to do the dishes.”
Although “I” statements work to improve communication, there are a few tips we can keep in mind:
- We need to reward the effort and not the outcome. Sometimes we deliver the “I” statement, fully expecting that the person receiving it will respond accordingly. This does not always happen as we can’t control another’s person’s response. If they choose to react defensively, that is on them. By rewarding the effort, we reinforce the position of “I am important and so are you.”
- Short and sweet tends to work better than a long explanation of how we feel. The more said, the greater the increase for emotion to take over.
- ‘I’ statements are best said calmly. As soon as we move to an angry tone, we lose the weight of our statement.
We can begin to practice ‘I’ statements with this simple formula: “When you _______________, I feel _______________.” This can help lead us to more effective communication and strengthened relationships.
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