‘I’ statements allow you to clearly state how you, personally, perceive and respond to a situation. You tell the other person how you feel, but you don't blame them for you feeling that way. ‘I’ statements can be particularly effective way of getting your message across when you are angry, irritated, upset or just not getting what you want or need.
The four parts of an ‘I’ Statement are:
- The action:...................“When...”
- Your response:............“I feel...”
- Preferred outcome:...“I would like...”
- The benefit:..................“That way...”
Saying to someone “I think”, “I need”, “I want” or “I would like” is more likely to result in a positive outcome than starting with something like “You should” or “You are”.
This approach also encourages the other person to tell you how they feel and be clear and specific about their needs.
You need to describe the action or situation causing the problem objectively. Give a factual description of what happened.
Begin with something like:
"When messages are not passed on . . ."
"When I hear a raised voice . . ."
"When I’m told we are going out . . ."
"When you don’t pass on a message . . ."
"When you rant and rave at me . . ."
"When you don’t bother to tell me you’ve arranged to go out ..."
The last three ways are likely to cause the other person to be defensive. An objective description of the event can help the other person understand the effect their action has on you.
People don’t always know the effect of their actions. When you are talking about your response you’re on safe ground. You’re discussing the facts. People are less likely to argue the point if you say “I get angry” or “I feel frustrated”.
- Your response might be an emotion. For example, you might explain that you feel hurt, angry or ignored.
- Telling people what you do can sometimes be easier than saying how you feel. For example, “I withdraw”; “I shout at you”; “I do everything myself”.
- You might tell the other person what you feel like doing, even if you don't do it. For example, “I feel like ignoring you”; “I want to walk out”.
Avoid blaming others for how you feel, or they may get defensive and reject the accusation with statements like: “If you get angry, that’s your problem!”
Your Preferred Outcome
Discuss what you would like to be able to do or have: “I’d like to have messages left for me in ....” This focuses on what would improve the situation for you without blaming the other person.
- When I am told we're going to a party at the last minute (action).
- I feel angry (response).
- I would like to have a day’s notice, so that I can plan for the evening (preferred outcome).
- That way I can arrange a babysitter and be ready on time (the benefit)
Tell the other person what they will get out of changing their behaviour - what’s in it for them. They need to feel that they are winning too.