What do you say to your partner when you are upset or angry?
How could you do...?
Why didn't you think about ...?
You always say...
How many times do I have to tell you...?
When will you start taking responsibility for...?
You're not listening!
Pointing the finger and using ‘you’ messages blames the other person and is likely to trigger shame, anger, or guilt instead of solving the problem. Once people become defensive or angry, communication tends to break down.
One of the most powerful tools that can be used in arguments is the "I" Statement.
When you practice an “I” Statement, you put the emphasis on your feelings or beliefs rather than the attributes or behaviors of your partner. While still addressing the issue that you have with your significant other, using an “I” Statement is a way to express your own needs, expectations, feelings, or concerns in a respectful way that does not attack them.
This technique works well when we need to confront others about their behavior, when we feel defensive, angry, or upset, or when others are not treating us respectfully. It helps to clarify our feelings as we communicate them to our partners, creates healthy ways of dealing with those feelings, and delivers our message without insulting our partner or diminishing his/her self-esteem. It gives our partner the opportunity to respond properly and opens the door to honest communication, increasing trust and a sense of connection.
How to Construct an “I” Statement:
There are three parts to an “I” Statement. You can change the order or use just part of the statement.
Describe the specific behavior: When I see/hear . . .
Describe how you feel: I feel . . .
Describe the tangible and specific effect of the behavior on you:
“When I see you continuing to watch TV when I said our dinner is on the table, I get frustrated because I don’t like to eat cold food.”
"Why are you using your phone at the table, it's annoying!" VS
"When I see you using your phone at the table, I feel annoyed because we are disconnected."
"You should be on time!" VS
"I feel angry/insecure when you are late."
"You are over-reacting!" VS
"When you react like that I feel uncomfortable."
Try to be clear and specific and only talk about what is happening in the moment, not the past. Skip the words “always” and “never.” If you continue your conversation with the "sandwich method" and active listening you will likely reach understanding and a better outcome without a fight.
Using "I" Statements can help to reduce negative emotions in conflict situations and make your communication more productive and your connection stronger.
Dating & Relationship Coach