You are not getting up on time for school! You didn’t do the dishes. You really need to focus in the classroom! As you can hear, the “you’s” in the statement can sound off-putting and attacking to the listener. As soon as it is heard, the listener is put on the defense and the message of what is trying to be communicated is lost. Using “I” statements are a loving and respectful way to communicate to each other. It’s also an effective approach to confront the person, assert yourself which in turn can lead to behavior change. Utilizing “I” statements allows the speaker to state their feelings and does not blame the listener. Also, “I” statements name the behavior that is troubling and therefore it can end with clear communication of what is expected. It helps separate out the behavior from the person which helps the listener understand that it is not they who is bad or in the wrong. In other words, it allows you to express your needs, feelings and wants in a healthy way so both can be better understood.
The reason why it is called an “I” Statement is that the speaker speaks from their perspective and from their own viewpoint. They own their feelings and thoughts and do not blame others for how they might feel or think. Here is one example of “I” statements called the “Feedback Loop Format:”
Feedback Loop Format:
Step 1. When I heard you (say you, felt you, discovered that you, noticed that you…)
Repeat what the person said/did, literally; be specific
Step 2. what I made up about that is…
State your perception, interpretation, thought, reality as it impacts you
Step 3. And about that I feel…
Share your emotions: (fear, joy, shame, pain, love, guilt)
Step 4. Thank you
Here is a real-life example of how this works: When I noticed you didn’t do the dishes, what I made up about that is that you don’t care about helping in the home, and about that I feel frustrated.
In order to be successful, it’s important to have congruence between our words, affect, tone of voice, and facial expression. It’s important that the format of using the “I” statement or “Feedback Loop” is:
It’s not easy as we are all humans and sometimes our own emotions and stress get in the way of expressing ourselves. It takes practice but eventually like with anything when you have the heart at the forefront of the matter, the power of “I” statements will become second nature. This type of communication:
Give it a try! “I” statements can be a powerful and effective way to motivate and change behavior while demonstrating self-advocacy and setting boundaries.
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By//Dena Cabrera, Psy.D. CEDS