Taking responsibility for our feelings helps us improve our communication when we are feeling upset or angry. One way to achieve this is by using “I” Statements. This technique allows us to communicate what is upsetting us while minimizing blame toward others. If a statement comes off as blaming, the person receiving the message will often feel attacked and/or become defensive.
REASONS FOR IMPLEMENTING “I” STATEMENTS:
- To stop blaming others
- To acknowledge your own wants/needs/feelings
THE FOUR PARTS OF “I” STATEMENTS:
- What you want, need, or feel
- The event that evoked your feeling(s) or desire
- The effect the event has on YOU!
Combine these parts to create an “I” Statement as follows:
“I feel really scared when someone doesn’t call if they are going to be late, because I worry that something may have happened to them.”
- Inserting “that” or “like”: The phrases “I feel that…” or “I feel like…” are really expressions of thought, often an opinion or judgement. The use of “I feel” should always be followed by a specific feeling word such as frustrated, afraid, glad, happy, etc.
- Disguised “YOU” Statements: These include sentences that begin with “I feel that you…” or “I feel like you…”. These can come off as blaming/attacking to the recipient.
- Accentuating ONLY your negative feelings: Some people spend a lot of time focusing on communicating their negative feelings and forget to communicate their positive feelings. Expressing your joy, happiness, relief, etc. is equally important.
- Undershooting the intensity of feelings: When individuals first start working with “I” statements, it is common for them to at first send a message that minimizes the intensity of their feelings and consequently their communication attempt has less of an impact on the receiver. REMEMBER: Match the message you send to the level of feeling!
- Avoid “ANGRY”: It is much easier to hear the primary feelings of hurt, fear, etc. being expressed that it is to hear the secondary feeling of anger. HINT: Consider what feeling led you to feel anger.
Scenario #1: Your friend keeps cancelling plans at the last minute. Last weekend, you were waiting for them at a restaurant when they called to tell you they would not be able to make it. You left feeling hurt.
Scenario #2: You are working on a project with a group and one member is not completing their tasks on time. You have repeatedly had to finish their work, which has been very frustrating.
Scenario #3: A friend who borrowed some movies from you has brought them back damaged. They want to borrow one again but you are feeling worried.
If you are considering counseling to improve your/your family’s communication skills, or if you need additional information, please reach out to one of our mental health professionals by clicking on the Find A Therapist tab at the top of this page.