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

In part one we discussed the definition and application of “You” statements and how they close conversations between individuals.  In Part 2, we will discuss “I” statements and how easy they are to construct.

“I” statements then put the ownership on the speaker, ourselves.  They usually begin with the pronoun, “I” and proceed from there.  You might start with, “I feel . . .” and then state how you feel, sad, or angry or frustrated, something like that.  Next, you state what it is about the behavior that bothers you.  It looks like this, “I feel sad when you don’t make eye contact with me.”  You start with an emotion and then state what it is that makes you feel that way, or the behavior in other words.  You conclude with a statement that offers to solve the problem or to prevent it from happening in the future.

Fully constructed our statement looks like this, “I feel sad when you don’t make eye contact with me while I am speaking.  I would prefer that we look at each other while we are talking.”  “I” statements allow us to be assertive while leaving the receiver’s feeling and ego intact.  It is much preferred to, “You are always looking at your phone while I am talking to you.  You seem don’t care about me at all.  You need to state looking at me.”  Well, does that make you want to look at the person?  Not really.

Yes, we make “You” statements all the time expecting them to yield positive benefits, but they rarely do.  When we use “I” statements with others, they understand that you’re expressing your feelings, that you are frustrated about something and they are much more willing to dialogue with you about the problem further.  How do we form an “I” statement?

Remember that you’re telling someone how you feel inside.  So start with a feeling word, “I feel angry, or frustrated”  Avoid words that assign blame to the receiver.  So you wouldn’t want to say, I feel like blaming, or I feel like you’re ignoring me.  Those are really still “You” statements in disguise.  Next, follow that up with what it is about their behavior that bothers you.  I feel angry when we pay more attention to our electronics than our conversation.  I use the word “we” to include myself to leave the door open for ownership.  It gives room to the receiver to also be more willing to own the problem.  You could substitute “you” in that case because it isn’t accusatory but factual.  It is a tricky area and to be safe, the guideline that I use is, if the conversation could easily escalate, then I will often use we and include myself.

In Part 3 of this series, we will discuss the use of “I” statements with that ever-present self-talk that often is so critical of ourselves.

Yours for better parenting,

Rich