You’ve probably heard of making “I” statements instead of “you” statements. For example, instead of saying, “You’re making me angry!” try saying “I feel angry because we were supposed to talk about our budget, and instead you made other plans.”
You can make those “I” statements even more effective, however. More effective “I” statements lead to better relating.
The 5-Step Formula
Be concise and specific.
- When you…
- I feel…
- I imagine…
- I need/want…
- Would you…
Here’s how to fill out those five steps.
- When you…state the specific action your partner takes.
- I feel…share how you feel inside when your partner did that thing.
- I imagine…try to imagine your partner’s perspective. How do you imagine they see the situation? Imagine a good intention.
- I need/want…share what the frustrated part of you say that it needs in this situation. You want to identify what you need and want in this situation, not what you want your partner to do.
- Would you…make a specific and concrete request to your partner.
Applying the 5 Steps to More Effective “I” Statements
Let’s use our budget example.
- When you don’t come to talk about our budget at the scheduled time
- I feel frustrated and angry
- I imagine you are really busy with work, and it’s hard to juggle so many different things
- I need a partner to help me out with the not-so-fun things in our relationship, like money, in a reliable and consistent way.
- Would you please join me right now to specifically find a workable solution for us both so we can work together to create a solid budget for our shared home expenses?
The finished product: “When you don’t meet with me at our scheduled time to talk about our budget I feel alone, sad, and frustrated. I imagine you are really busy work, and it may even be difficult for you to juggle so many things. I need a partner to work with me around not-so-fun things in for our relationship in a reliable and consistent way. Would you please join me right now to specifically find a workable solution for us both so we can work together to create a solid budget for our shared home expenses.”
Bonus step! Ask for something in the present moment.
Such as: “Would you give me a hug and reassure me how you will remember our agreed upon meetings?”
How to Receive an “I” Statement
When you get an “I” message back try listening, without thinking up what you will say next, until you hear out your partner. You will notice that your partner feels heard when they have stopped talking and seem calmer. Listening is as good if not better than making sure you get said what you want to say. It sometimes soothes an angry situation so more problem solving can happen later.
“If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. … We need not wait to see what others do.” Gandhi