How to use “I Statements” for Conflict Resolution
There’s one small change that I’ve made to the way I talk with my boyfriend that has made soooooooo much difference. Like, seriously, this one small change is responsible for so many good things. It’s this: Use I Statements
Using I statements when you talk has a lot of benefits.
The big ones are that it’s a more effective way of communicating, which leads to less conflict and then everyone is happier.
It’s also just more precise. I can only ever really truly know myself and using I statements when I talk reflects that reality.
Here are some examples of talking with I statements:
When you didn’t come home at the time that I was expecting and then I couldn’t get ahold of you, I felt frustrated that we were going to be late for our show and I was scared that you didn’t care about me.
That is hopefully going to open up more space for productive dialogue than if you had just said, “You’re such a selfish asshole for not being home on time!”
Here’s another one:
Sometimes I want to flirt with other guys when we go out dancing and I feel stifled when I think that I’m not allowed to.
Now, that might be really difficult for your partner to hear, but it’s probably gonna be more effective than just, “What’s your hang up?! All gay couples are open these days!”
Here’s why I statements are so effective: They just can’t be argued with.
Your experience is your experience. How you perceive what happened is how you perceive what happened. Now, we can talk about whether things actually happened that way or what the intention behind it was or what they might mean, but we can’t deny that you perceive what happened in that particular way.
And likewise, how you feel is how you feel. We can talk about whether that’s a helpful feeling, whether it’s grounded in reality or not, but it is definitely how you feel.
When you focus on I statements, you just like don’t leave any room for a disagreement. Combining those two things, how you perceive what happened and how you feel about it, can provide a really powerful opening for empathy. If you can focus on what you experienced and how you’re feeling, perhaps you can help your partner understand you a bit better.
Oftentimes if we can understand how a person experienced something, then even the most quote unquote irrational responses start to make a bit more sense. This takes practice, and you’re being vulnerable and that can be scary. You’re letting someone see your true, whole, authentic self. No hiding behind generalizations or assumptions.
I need to add an important caveat here that it doesn’t matter how well you communicate or how many relationship videos you watch. If your partner also isn’t gonna show up and do the work, there’s no amount of one sided attempts that can make a relationship work. It’s gotta be collaborative. And even still, sometimes values just clash. It’s okay and can be a good thing even to end or to restructure a relationship that isn’t working.
If you want to become an even better communicator, I put together a short playlist that will walk you through the four steps of effective communication. And if you’d like some more personal support in figuring all of this out, reach out!