Getting into arguments or just having tough conversations can be tough at times. It’s hard to say what you want to say without hurting the other person. You are just trying to get something off your chest that has been bothering you, but you don’t want to come off as a jerk when saying it. 

This is where “I” statements come in. They help you get your point across without casting blame and helps your partner understand what you are trying to say. 

An “I statement”‘ is a way of wording our thoughts and feelings so that we take responsibility for them instead of blaming our partner. Whereas a “you statement” is used to attack your partner, which will only make them defensive and uncooperative. 

“I” statements aren’t about being polite or nice. On paper, “I” statements sound soft, but they are direct and clear. They are a way to start conversations, not resolutions. They help jumpstart the tough conversations. 

Rules to form “I” statements

Step 1: Listen to what they are saying

Let your Significant other say what they want to say without interruptions. 

Letting them speak and letting them complete their thoughts will help ease some frustration they may be feeling. But it’s more than just listening. Ensure your body language shows that you are tuned into what they are saying and make noise affirming that you are listening. 

Step 2: Using “I” and not “you” 

Using “I” and not “you” avoids sounding like you’re blaming your partner. It’s about how you are feeling and not about what they are doing. So keep that in mind when forming your “I” statements. 

Step 3: Behavior not the person

This plays off of the “I” and not “you” rule. It’s to remind you not to focus on the person but rather on their behavior. It helps you focus and articulate what is bothering you so that your partner knows what you want to discuss. It is stating the issue without beating around the bush. 

Step 4: Affects

State how the behavior affects you. This is where you can express how you feel. You can say how you feel and why you feel that way. If you can’t articulate your feelings to your significant other, then you can’t expect them to know why you are frustrated. 

Step 5: Actions

Lay out actions or expectations. Communicate with your partner what you can do and what they can do to not be frustrated anymore. This part of the statement helps plan out an actionable plan so that you can move forward. 

Examples: 

Attention:

  • “You” statement: You don’t care about me. You are inconsiderate. You never make time to call or text me.
  • “I” statement: I feel lonely when you don’t pay attention to me, or call or text me.

Housework: 

  • “You” statement: You don’t help out enough. You just expect me to clean up after you.
  • “I” statement: I feel overwhelmed and underappreciated when you don’t help out with the housework.

Money:

  • “You” statement: You never care about money. You endlessly swipe your card and never think to stop and ask if we should get it. 
  • “I” statement: I feel stressed and anxious when you spend money on things we don’t need. 

Cell Phone:

  • “You” statement: You are always on your phone. Even during our time. It seems you would rather talk to other people than me.
  • “I” statement: I feel unimportant when you keep your phone out during date night. 

To sum it up 

Frustration and conflict are bound to happen in any relationship. Healthy communication habits don’t come naturally to most of us. So if you struggle communicating how you feel, then practicing “I” statements might be the best way to get started on healthy communication habits. 

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