“I” Statement vs. “You” Statements–Part 1

Teaching kids and perhaps ourselves about “I” Statements vs. “You” Statements may be one of the more valuable life skills topics that we can share with someone.  An I-message expresses our feelings or beliefs of the person speaking and usually begins with the word “I,” wherein contrast, a You-message starts with the term “you” and focuses on the person you are speaking.

If we begin a statement with “I,” then we are referring to ourselves, assuming we’re doing the speaking.  When we start with “you,” we can quickly put the other person on the defensive right away.  They may easily misinterpret your message or even completely turn you off.  By stating our concern starting with “I,” we take ownership of the issue.  In effect, we are saying, “I could be wrong here,” or “I see it this way,” which gives the receiver of the message some room to consider what you’re saying and then decide for themselves if they can also take some ownership.

At some time, we have all blamed others for our problems and feelings.  Kids have a natural tendency to default to the “You” sentence starters.  But they can be taught to say what they need to say and still leave the reception open to hearing what they’re saying.  This life skill of great importance can apply to nearly every relationship they will have in life.

One day at home, I was expressing  frustration about something to my wife, and she came forth with the statement, “You never own anything.” I was surprised because I didn’t feel like I was trying to “pass-off” blame for something, but simply expressing myself and telling her why I felt like I did.  For days afterward, I kept thinking about why that happened because I realized it might be true.  Often when we express our opinions or thoughts about something, it comes off as shirking the blame from ourselves to someone else.

When we want to express ourselves and start a sentence with “you,” we close down communication with the other person without them hearing anything.  If we start the sentence with “I” and complete it by saying how we feel about something, the person listening then begins to consider whether they agree with you or not.

Part 2 in this series can be found here, “You” Statements vs. “I” Statements Part 2 – Dr. Rich Patterson (pattersonphd.com)

Need more examples?  Tony Robbins has some here, The importance of “I-statements” in relationships | Tony Robbins


We will discuss this further in Parts 2 & 3 in this series.

Yours for better parenting,