The Magic of “I Statements”

Have you heard of “I Statements”?  If not, you need to read this post!  I first learned about “I statements” during my formal education.  At that time I was being taught the best ways to communicate for parents and children, married couples, and children with other children.  It is kind of funny because regardless of who the communication is between, the concept of “I statements” was used.

For example, divorce can be predicted (with great accuracy), by how couples fight.  Of course everyone fights, but some do it with respect more so than others.  “I statements” can help with healthy fighting.  When parents talk with their children they can teach empathy and feeling identification using “I statements”.  When children communicate with each other, arguments can be worked out with greater speed using “I statements”.  Years ago, I worked at a school that used an “I statement” script with kids who had conflict to resolve the problem.  By the end of the school year, kids would independently talk to the script and use it to successfully resolve their own conflicts without adult support needed.  It was pretty cool.

When I suggest using “I statements” during session, often times people say it feels scripted or that it won’t work well; however, for those who try it I typically hear positive feedback on how it defuses situations.  Okay, enough build up.  Let me outline the “I statement” script for you.  I encourage you to try it and see how it goes.  It can feel artificial at first, but it really is effective.

“When you __________, I feel _________.  I would like ____________.”

Here are some examples:

“When you aren’t following directions I feel angry.  I would like you to listen to what I say the first time.”

“When you yell, I feel scared.  I would like you to talk in a quieter voice.”

“When you don’t pick up after yourself, I feel disrespected.  I would like you to pick your things up after you use them.”

“When you criticize the food I cook, I feel hurt.  I would like you to eat the food I take time to cook.”

You get the idea of how to do this.  You pair your feeling with an action that someone took that impacted you.  Finally, you ask for what you need from the person.  When you use this script, it is more difficult for the person who is hearing the message to take it personally or get offended.  The people in our lives don’t usually want to hurt us so when they hear their actions negatively impacted our emotions, they are more open to also hearing our request of them.  Finally, as previously mentioned, this script can help children with identification of emotions.  Children can be taught this script to help them more effective express their feelings and ask for what they need.  I encourage you to try it out for awhile and see how it works for you.

If you or any one in your family needs help defusing hot emotions, give us a call (720-583-9332).  We would love to help you!



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