I-Statements are probably the best known, most effective and least properly used technique for improving communication, resolving conflict, and setting boundaries. They usually are composed of 3 parts:
1) When you _____, (Report a concrete observation of the other person’s behavior.)
2) I feel_________. (Report on how the other person’s behavior makes you feel.)
3) In the future, please_________. (Make a request.)
- Do report the other person’s behavior concretely, without characterization or judgment.
- Do report how you feel accurately and without judgment.
- Do make a specific request that is realistic, time-bound, concrete and doable
- Don’t exaggerate, use sarcasm, irony, innuendo, name calling, punishment, or blame.
- Don’t exaggerate or minimize how you feel.
- Don’t turn the I-Statement into a You Statement. (I feel that you…)
- Don’t substitute an evaluation for an emotion. Tell the other person if you are happy, glad, sad, irritated, angry, nervous, afraid, or hurt. Avoid: “I feel like…” or “I feel that…”
- Don’t leave out the request.
- Don’t make unreasonable, impossible or unclear requests.
Put This Tool to Work
At first, you might find that using this tool seems difficult, unnatural or fake. As with any tool, it takes time and effort before you get the hang of using it. Practice. Consciously make an effort to use I-Statements in low-risk situations at least 3-5 times a day until you do it naturally, without effort and without having to think about it.
Use I-Statements where they are needed. If you use them at work, be sure that you also use them at home or anywhere else they are needed.