“I Feel” Statements

This is not communication

Mollybob

Rummaging through the various lifestyle design or personal development websites out there one particular topic that is one very under-represented is communication. Specifically, the “I Feel” statement”, sometimes called simply “I” statement, is an excellent and often overlooked method of highly effective communication. The power of the “I feel” statement is that it puts a person’s own feelings first. The person doing the communicating takes ownership of the message by putting themselves first and then following up with how they feel.

Here is an example of a common scenario without using “I feel” statements.

“You are such a jerk for talking to me like that in front of my family”

This is often referred to a “You” statement. You can see that the above statement puts the receiver in the defensive, after all, they are being called a jerk. The biggest problem with “You” statements is that, more often than not, they encourage arguments. If someone is a jerk or not is just a matter of opinion. The response to “You” statements are often “No I am not” or “No I did not”. Another flaw with the above statement is that it is too vague. The words “like that” carries no real information to the receiver.

Let’s take a look at the same scenario, but this time with the use of “I feel” statement.

“I feel embarrassed when you are rude to me that in front of my family”

As you can see, the thought that we are communicating with the “I feel” statement is the same. It is less likely that the receiver will get defensive because they are not being attacked or criticized. The second point to note is that you are no longer stating an opinion you are stating a fact: I feel embarrassed. There is no argument here. No one can tell you how you feel besides yourself. It is also worth noting that the second statement is a bit more specific about the behavior that is causing the feeling. The “I feel” statement makes it clear that rudeness is what caused the embarrassment.

A classic example with couples is:

“You never help around the house”

Maybe the use of “I feel” statement could get better results:

“I feel overwhelmed managing the entire household by myself”

Another classic example, common with friends:

“You are late again. You are always late.”

Could be:

“I am disappointed with your tardiness”

The last example does not have the word “feel” in it but could have been written as “I feel disappointed”. It still communicates the same message by having the person expressing how they feel.

“I feel” statements are not only used to express negative emotions. It could also express positive feelings and encourage good behavior.

“I feel supported when you help out with the dishes”

or

“I feel loved when you noticed the work I did around the house”

“I feel” statements are great for being assertive and not confrontational. While it can be a great challenge to always use them, I find that it that I have less arguments when I express myself this way. It’s hard work and I have to constantly work on reminding myself to use “I feel” statements.

Have you had any success with “I feel” statements? Please share your feedback in the comments.

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