Why We Need “I” Statements in Our Relationships

I statements

Why we need “I” Statements: she said, “You never clean up after yourself!”

He walked into the living room completely unaware he was approaching a minefield of “you never” and “you always.” The guy didn’t stand a chance.

After the battle was over, regret set in. She really didn’t want to explode their relationship. She was just so frustrated! Why didn’t he understand her feelings? Now there would be weeks of healing wounds and rebuilding trust.

In our relationships, war doesn’t have to be the first option. Choose to negotiate at the diplomatic table with your allies: “I” statements. Changing the way we communicate can get our message across without the hurt feelings of blaming.

“I” statements are a way to phrase your feelings while tactfully describing a problem as you see it. It may sound simple, but takes a bit of practice.

Form your own “I” Statements

Begin with “I feel…” followed by a descriptive word for the emotion. Do your best to use a soft, even tone with your voice. Then end the statement with a gentle description of how the person’s actions affect you. You can also add, or just explain what would be better going forward.

Here’s the formula: I feel… (emotion) when… (describe event) because and/or please… (explain what feelings their actions caused and/or what would be better in the future.)

Beginning your statement with “I” instead of “you” can diffuse feelings of blame or being attacked. It is less confrontational, but you still communicate what you are feeling, leading to more understanding and a stronger relationship.

A few examples from the Relationships Australia website:

“You” statements:

  • “You always leave your mess lying everywhere.”
  • “You don’t care about me or my feelings.”

Rephrased as “I” statements:

  • “I feel frustrated when I come home and the house is messy.”
  • “I feel frustrated when my feelings don’t seem to be noticed.”

Think back to past arguments and practice rephrasing. I try using this method, well, most of the time, and it has made a big difference. My husband notices the change and appreciates the effort I am putting in to contribute positively to our relationship. He responds in kind. Progress without explosives!

Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other.

Romans 12:10

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