“I” – Statements in Communication Skills
I recently read an article by Diana Mercer on peace-talks.com (here) about the use of “I” – statements in mediation but they are also a very good tool in all forms of communication. I recently attended a Mens Group and one of the rules was to only use “I” – statements and not to offer advice when another person was speaking. It was amazing how such a restraint improved honest communication between the participants and created a much needed bond within the group.
If you want to create closer bonds with friends and love ones, then use “I” – statements and listen without interruption. You will see very quickly the impact that this form of communication improves your relationships.
The following is a precise of the article I read.
As an example: “I feel angry when I do all the house work” expresses how someone feels about a particular issue than “You never help around the kitchen”/
“I” – statements create collaboration and build on personal responsibility rather than blame.
The opposite of the “I” – statement is the “You” – statement. “You” – statements are inherently judgmental. They feel like an accusation (and usually are). A “You” – statement is your opinion of the other person.
Imagine your spouse saying any of the following things to you:
- You are crazy.
- You can’t do that.
- You are so lazy.
- You are loud.
- You are wrong.
An “I” – statement gives your spouse information about you. It doesn’t put your spouse on the defensive because you are the vulnerable one. Imagine your former spouse saying any of the following to you:
- I am feeling very insecure about having to support myself after so many years.
- I am so resentful of how much money we are spending on this divorce.
- I do not want to feel like I am not a part of my kids’ day to day life.
- I am so angry that you introduced your girlfriend to the kids without letting me know first.
There is nothing to get defensive about when your spouse is merely telling you something about herself. You are not responsible for how she feels or to help her feel differently. This type of information sharing helps foster communication. It makes no judgments or demands.
To create an “I” – statement, start your sentence with “I” and then use healthy personal disclosure to tell your spouse what is going on with you. Simply saying, “I’d feel so much more financially secure if you could pay off your student loan,” goes a lot further than, “You racked up that debt, not me.”
“I” – statements are an easy way to show your spouse you are comfortable expressing vulnerability as you divorce. Since they are clearly your opinion or your feelings, and not a command for the other person, they are much easier for the other person to hear. They also verbalize a sense of yourself as separate from the “we” you once were and allow you to take personal responsibility for your thoughts and feelings. Practice using them in all your relationships, not just with your spouse, so you can get used to thinking in terms of I-statements all the time. It’s a valuable lesson with an impact well beyond your divorce.