Using “I” Statements in Relationships
Anyone from your grandmother to your therapist will tell you that one of the keys to a happy, healthy marriage is good communication. Practicing skills such as active listening, clarity, and respect can improve a couple’s interactions.
Another very useful tool for improving communications is the use of “I” statements.
What is an “I” Statement? What is the purpose of an “I” statement?
An “I” statement is a method for expressing feelings that focuses responsibility on the speaker rather than on the recipient. It is the opposite of a “You” statement, which implies blame. Well then, are “I” statements better than “You” statements!
Thomas Gordon first explored this type of communication as a means of effective leadership in the 1960s. Bernard Guerney later introduced the methodology to marriage and couples counseling.
“You” statement: You never call because you don’t care about me.
“I” statement: When I don’t hear from you, I feel anxious and unlovable.
By focusing a statement on how the speaker feels rather than the actions of the recipient, the recipient is less likely to feel blamed and defensive. “I-Statements” for couples can do wonders for their relationship.
Often defensiveness can keep couples from effective conflict resolution. Using “I” statements In relationships can help the speaker take ownership of their feelings, which may result in the realization that those feelings are not their partner’s fault.
How to train yourself to make “I” statements?
The simplest “I” statements make a connection between thoughts, emotions, and behaviors or events. When trying to express yourself in an “I” statement, use the following format: I feel (emotion) when (behavior) because (thought about event or behavior).
Remember that simply tacking “I” or “I feel” onto the front of a statement will not change the emphasis.
When you use an “I” statement, you are describing your feelings to your partner not chastising them for certain behaviors.
Your partner may not know how their behavior affects you. You should never assume that they intend for the behavior to cause bad feelings. S, it’s not just about when to use “I” statements but also how to use them.
How to make “I” statements more effective?
“You” statements tend to express feelings as facts, and the implication is that those facts cannot be changed. With an “I” statement, the speaker acknowledges that their feelings are subjective. This allows for the opportunity to change.
To get the most out of your “I” statements focus on referring to behavior rather than the person. Don’t project a feeling into the description of your partner’s behavior. Make your statement simple and clear.
“I” statements are not resolutions unto themselves. Instead, they are an effective way to start a constructive conversation.
Once you are comfortable with a simple “I” statement, try following up by describing a change that would improve your feelings. Do not forget to listen once you have made your statement.
Sometimes an “I” statement may still cause your partner to feel defensive. If they lash back, listen, and try to empathize with their feelings.
Repeat back what you are hearing your partner say. It may be best to disengage and return to the discussion at a later time.
The use of “I” statements demonstrates your commitment and desire for improving communications with your partner. They are an indication of respect and empathy.
This desire to resolve conflict lovingly is an important first step to a better marriage.
Want to have a happier, healthier marriage?
If you feel disconnected or frustrated about the state of your marriage but want to avoid separation and/or divorce, the marriage.com course meant for married couples is an excellent resource to help you overcome the most challenging aspects of being married.