I and You Statements
One of the most effective, yet simplest ways of facilitating open communication at home is to use “I Statements” in place of “You Statements”. We frequently refer to “I”and “You” Statements in this marriage blog because they are such effective tools in communicating feelings and attitudes clearly and honestly.
“You Statements” are by nature accusatory and negating. They put the recipient on the defensive because he or she feels attacked and threatened. The innate reflex when one feels threatened is to gear up emotionally for a defense. Under such circumstances, one’s intellectual resources, attention, and energies are focused on defending oneself, one’s integrity, and one’s ego. Such negative feelings, once stirred up, continue to distort the relationship and are likely to block future communication. On the other hand, negative feelings, once aroused, feed on each other causing more and more disharmony.
Some examples of “You Statements” are:
“You never listen to me.”
“You always spend too much on clothes.”
“You never pick up your clothes.”
“You never want to do things with me anymore.”
“I Statements,” on the other hand, are simple statements of fact about how a person’s actions make us feel. Rather than attack the other person, “I Statements” in a matter-of-fact way informs how another’s behavior or actions, positive or negative, affects us.
Done in a non-threatening, non-accusatory way, these “I Statements” are more likely to enlist respect and corrective action. Something in our human nature makes us responsive to their honesty. Since we are not on the defensive, we are free to listen–and understand–and maybe change.
Some examples of “I Statements” are:
“I feel good when…you listen to what I think.”
“I wish we could get a better control of our budget”
“I feel more secure when you call to tell me you are going to be late.”
“I feel uncomfortable when you tell jokes about my family.”
“I would like for us to start playing tennis together like we use to.”
In general,“I Statements” combine the first-person pronoun with a “feeling” verb such as:
“I will do…”
You know that a true feeling is being expressed when the descriptive word immediately follows the word feel (or similar verb) in the sentence. For example, “I feel frustrated when we don’t talk about our plans…” or “I feel loved when…”
Judgement and Feeling
Too often, however, we disguise judgement as feelings. For example, “I feel you don’t care what I like.”or “I think you don’t love me any more…”Can you see that these are disguised “You Statements?” Let’s always remember: When we give feelings, we get feelings. When we give affirmation, we get affirmation. When we give judgement, we get judgement.
Value of “I Statements”
The use of “I Statements” facilitate communication in the family in several ways:
- They reduce the amount of blaming and nagging we do. “I Statements” do not blame. They state facts. Nagging creates hard feelings and repressed resentment which tend to lead to an ever-deepening spiral of antagonistic behavior within a family. The more we can get away from such blaming and nagging, the more likely our home will to be pleasant, nurturing places for all of us.
- “I Statements” reduce the amount of defensive feelings and behavior in the other person, thus leaving an open door for the person to do something about the fact, situation, or behavior that is bothering us, the send of the message.
- “I Statements” also serve as a non-threatening, legitimate way to express one’s emotions. Feelings and emotions, both positive and negative, need to be expressed.
- “I Statements” allow us to express our emotions in such a way that others can know exactly how we feel and why.
- With anger, frustration, hurt, “I Statements” allow us to get our feelings out in the open without inciting additional negative feelings in the receiver.
For those who have never tried them, “I Statements” may at first take some effort. Their use may seem a little strange, or at least, a little artificial. But if you try using them for a while you will find that more and more they come easily and naturally. You will also see what a difference they can make in your relationships as they become second nature to you.