Own Your Feelings With “I” Statements
Can you figure out why I didn’t like how I said that?
What’s wrong with this statement?
I believe words can be very powerful, especially when we use them on a regular basis. When I told my son that he MAKES ME FEEL sad, I am implying he has some sort of control over my feelings. In a way, it’s placing blame on him for his mom’s feelings. Bad news!
What should I have said?
Benefits of Using I-Statements in Communication
Practicing and teaching boundaries: Healthy boundaries means that I own my own thoughts and feelings. Other people do not control my thoughts and feelings and I don’t control the thoughts and feelings of others. This is an important and valuable lesson for my kids, as well as maintaining my own psychological health. Boundaries are so important that I am working on a blog post devoted to this very topic.
Improving communication and conflict resolution: Using I-statements keeps the person you are communicating with from being on the defense. You will be better able to resolve conflict using I-statements rather than stating, “You did this” and “You did that!”
Great for all ages and communication levels. You can use this communication technique with anyone and any age. The example I gave above involved communication with my toddler, and you can’t get any more basic that that!
How To Use I-Statements:
Start by identifying how you feel: mad, sad, frustrated, etc.
I feel __________
State the reason you feel this way or what happened that led you to those feelings.
Try to identify the reason the person’s actions led to those feelings for you.
Let the person know what you want instead.
I would like __________ .
Your spouse snaps at you during dinner and it really hurt your feelings. Here’s an I-statement to use with this scenario:
I feel hurt when you snap at me like that because I worked hard to cook this nice dinner for us. I would like you to use nicer words and tone with me, and to know if something happened today that has led you to be in a bad mood.
Practice, Practice, Practice
Just like anything else, the more you practice I-statements, the better you will become at this very effective communication tool. Use this technique with your friends, family, spouse, and kids. You can also make learning fun with a game!
Use your I’s is one of my favorite therapeutic games. I play this with my younger clients and families and I also recommend this game for parents to play with their kids. You can buy it online at Childtherapytoys.com. The players draw from a stack of cards with various scenarios that challenges the player to identify how they would feel in that scenario and turn it into an I statement. It is a great tool for teaching the following:
1. Feeling identification,
2. Turning these feelings into an I statement, and
3. Role playing to practice the communication tool.
More good references on this subject:
So, go out and use your I’s today!