“I” Statements vs. “You” Statements – Part 2

In Part One of this three-part series, I introduced “I” Statements vs. “You” Statements and pointed out that by starting with “You,” we sound accusatory—the statements, whether intended or not, sound inflammatory to the listener.  When we begin with “I” statements, we are in effect saying, “Hey, I could be wrong here . . . “The second example gives a little room for acceptance by the listener; it gives them room to save their self-esteem and maybe ego as well.

I want to talk about “I” message construction in this part.  There are a couple of approaches to this, and I’ll share both with you, and you can decide which one fits your style the best.

Three-Step Example

  1.  I feel . . . (insert feeling word) frustrated
  2. When you look away from me while I am speaking to you.
  3. I would prefer that you look at me directly when speaking, and I will do the same.

Four-Part Example

  1. I feel like I am . . .  acting immature.
  2. I don’t like . . . to be treated this way.
  3. Because that makes me . . . (insert feeling word) shut down completely.
  4. Can we find a better way to talk to each other?

Try both the three-part and four-part examples and see which feels most natural to you.  I like to decide which one I can most easily remember, which one feels most natural.

If an “I” message contains “you-messages,” it can be problematic in conflict situations.

For example: “I feel . . . , when you… ., and I want you to . . .”

Direct communication such as this example can put the receiver on the defensive in a dispute.

Instead, use a phrase that begins with “I want” You could say, “I want to think about this further.  Have you already decided?” Rather than, “It seems like you have already decided, so I guess I don’t have any input here.”

In Part 3, we will discuss this technique with application toward self-defeating thoughts.  Here is the link, “I” Statements vs. “You” Statements – Part 3 – Dr. Rich Patterson (

Here is a worksheet to help you develop your skills further, TherapistsUltimateSolutionBook_final copy 5 (


Yours for better parenting,