“I” statements are simple and powerful ways of communicating with yourself and others

I statements are powerful message of impact and personal perspective. I statements build a foundation of trust and respect in relationships. I statements are the basis for many relationship and communication processes. They help draw awareness to the defenses of projection, splitting and isolation. I-Statements are an impactful form of communication because accountability and responsibility remain with the speaker. To connect with others, build intimacy, or let them know us
better.

I-Statements connect people. I feel happy
when I see you smile because I believe you love me. An I statement
starts with I feel and can expand to include many dimensions of ones
experience of a situation.

There are many forms of I-statements. The following are templates .

Simple I-Statement

  1. breath
  2. understand your intention
  3. “I feel” emotion

I feel _______.

I feel sad.

I feel happy.

I feel mad.

Ix3-Statements

  1. breath
  2. understand your intention
  3. “I feel” emotion
  4. “when I ” observed event
  5. “because I ” story I told myself about the events

I feel _____ when I ______ because I ______.

I feel sad when I am home alone, because I want us to be together.
I feel sad when I see others suffer, because I believe in the dignity of all humans.

Powerful I-Statements

  1. breath
  2. understand your intention
  3. “I feel” intensity emotion
  4. “when I see” observed event
  5. “because I believe” belief I formed about the events

I feel ____ ______ when I see ____ _____, because I believe _______ ______.

I feel very happy when I see you smile, because I believe happiness spreads and we should be joyful.

Guidelines in Constructing I-messages

Don’t

  • I feel that… – can be a disguised you statement or be a thought or judgement.
  • I feel like… – can be a disguised you statement or be a thought or judgement.
  • start with anger – start with a positive and after you have learned
    to effectively use an I statement and have an agreement with your
    partner
  • use labels like crazy, weird ,rigid, – categorize people and blame them, be present, take the time to share your perception of
  • use “oughts” and “shoulds” they are criticism and judgements without providing the impact of these actions

Do

  • use emotion such as joy, sad, glad, hurt, afraid, or mad
  • Convey your positive emotions, joy, happiness, relief, etc.
  • Express the intensity of your emotions, use adjectives such as very, dull, great,
  • Be specific, when did this happen,what did you see, etc.

It often takes several week of practice before individuals become skilled at I-Statement construction.

Practice options

  • Using I-Statements for a full 15 minutes.
  • Practice using I statements in your diary or journal.
  • Use I statements in email and other written communication
  • Reflect on with who or with which emotions are I statements flow or are the most challenging

Resources:

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About Phil Ruff

I am a seeker of the truth and a lover of the journey. I am a mystic and human potential advocate who spends some of my daylight hours posing as an information technology professional
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One Response to “I” statements are simple and powerful ways of communicating with yourself and others

  1. gumption says:

    Phil: I like “I” statements, and the insights you have shared about them. I particularly like the good catch on “I feel that” or “I feel like” as thinly disguised thoughts or judgments (vs. feelings).

    As I continue to practice this way of communicating, I find myself increasingly distracted by the use of “you” statements that people use when the proper referent would be “I” (e.g., when victims of some natural disaster are interviewed, they often say “you feel like your whole world has fallen apart” … when, in my judgment, it would be more accurate to day “I feel like my whole world has fallen apart”). The use of “you” seems to create more distance, which is more understandable in times of crisis.

    Anyhow, in addition to thanking you for sharing your insights on “I” statements, I wanted to ask two clarifying questions.

    In your list of Don’ts, you say “[don’t] use labels like crazy, weird ,rigid, – categorize people and blame them, be present, take the time to share your perception of”. Did you mean to include the “categorize people and blame them” as a “don’t” but “be present, take the time to share your perception of” as a “do” (or a “rather/instead”)?

    In your list of Dos, you say “Express the intensity of your emotions, use adjectives such as very, dull, great,”. Your entire post, except for this point, is very consistent with the training and practices in The Mankind Project. This aspect of intensity, though, is one we often struggle with, as many men tend to downplay emotions “I feel a little sad”, “I feel kind of angry”. I have discussed this issue with several men (in and out of MKP), some of whom feel strongly about the appropriateness of using diminutive adjectives in qualifying their emotions. I believe that when I use such diminutive qualifiers, I diminish the expression of the emotion and thereby diminish my processing (and feeling) of the emotion. Each person has to decide this issue for him or herself. I simply raise the issue here to encourage such decisions to be made more consciously.

    Joe.

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