The Power of Effective Communication: Using I Statements

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How many times have you sounded like your own mother when you've spoken to a mate or to children? Using phrases like: You never, you always, you should, you keep me from, you need to, you'd better. You were probably raised listening to this kind of parental exclamation and may have unknowingly incorporated these phrases into your own family life.

Often, we'll think phrases like these provide more efficient communication, or that they give us an air of authority. But, the problem is, the use of "you" statements doesn't effectively communicate who you really are, or what you really feel. And you often end up merely installing communication barriers between you and others, as well as between you and yourself.

Instead, I suggest that you try replacing those "you" statements with "I" statements. Soon, I believe you'll start feeling more like yourself and a lot less lost inside your marriage and your family system. Here are some examples:

  • I'd really like it if you could do something for me. I think I need...
  • I feel disappointed that we don't often get to . . .
  • I would like it if we did something a little different than usual . . .
  • I was thinking that it would be useful to you if you could . . .
  • I am feeling disappointed that I didn't get the time to . . .

This softer way of speaking draws attention to who you are, what you think, and what you need, which fosters intimacy and understanding. Sometimes, in the heat of the moment, it requires taking a deep breath.

One way to strengthen your comfort using I statements (which can feel awkward for awhile) is to write down some of the you statements you've heard others (or yourself) say during the day. Then, rewrite each statement into an I statement: "You never let me say what I think" becomes "I feel left out of the conversation. I'd like to say what I think." If you take the time to rewrite and to translate "you" to "I," you will become more adept at doing it in the moment in your everyday conversations.

Try it out and let me know how it works for you!

Photo Source: By Darwin Bell