Own Your Feelings With “I” Statements

i-statementsThis morning I was loading my toddler into the car, and he was crying over not getting his way (shocking, right?). I caught myself after saying “You make mommy feel sad when you cry like that.”

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!


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. 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.

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.

when __________

Try to identify the reason the person’s actions led to those feelings for you.

because __________

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!

More good references on this subject:



So, go out and use your I’s today! 🙂

Originally posted 2012-09-10 09:00:17.