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.
“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, can continue to distort the relationship.
Some examples of “you” statements are:
“You never listen to me..”
“You always spend too much on clothes.”
“You never pick up your clothes.”
“I” statements, on the other hand, are simple statements about how another’s behavior or actions affect us or make us feel. Rather than attack the other person, “I” statements in a matter-of-fact way informs the other person how their behavior, 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 the honesty of “I” statements. 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 hug me.”
“I like it when you call me when you are going to be late.”
“I feel uncomfortable when you tell jokes about my family.”
In general, “I” statements combine the first person pronoun with a “feeling” verb such as:
“I feel…” “I think…” “I need…” “I fear…” “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…”
Judgement and Feeling
Too often, however, we disguise judgement as feeling. 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 feeling. When we give judgement, we get judgement.
Value of “I” Statements
The use of “I” statements facilitate communication in a 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 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.