Friendship, Healthy relationships, Parenting

Simply Starting With “I” Instead of “You” Changes the Whole Conversation

Quick Quiz: Which of these statements would you rather have said to you?

A. “You need to help out more. I’ve been doing all the work around here lately.”

B. “I feel overwhelmed lately by all of the work I’ve been doing around here. Can we talk about that?”

I know, you might prefer C. None of the above.

These types of conversations are never fun, but are an unavoidable part of being in relationship with others. So, given the choice of A or B, most of us would rather have B said to us.

Choice B is an “I statement” with the intention of owning one’s feelings and being assertive without putting the other person on the defensive.

Choice A is a “you statement” that doesn’t identify feelings, incites blame and will likely escalate the conflict.

I do a similar quiz with kids and they overwhelmingly prefer I statements too.

Image of flowers with text "Simply Starting with "I" Instead of "You" Changes the Whole Conversation"

So why don’t we use and hear “I statements” more? Why are our homes, schools, businesses and playgrounds still filled with:

  • You should______
  • You always _____
  • You never ______
  • You better ______
  • And other “you statements” that divide, instead of connect?

I think the main reason is habit. We likely grew up with “you statements” so this way of communicating has served as our model. It takes a conscious effort to break old patterns. Other reasons might be fear of being vulnerable and sharing feelings or even not being in touch with our own feelings.

Regardless of the reason, using more “I statements” at home is a great way to create connection, resolve conflict and model healthy communication for kids.

In my work with kids, I call it “I Power.”  Here’s a worksheet I use to help kids understand the concept. It goes like this….

Using “I Power” to Speak Up and Connect (Instead of Divide)

Words matter…a lot! The words we choose make matters a lot better or a lot worse. Saying the right words takes practice, but once we learn, it’s a tool that will improve relationships our whole lives.

Here’s how it works best…..

“I Power” – What to Say Important Notes
 

“I feel  ___________________(feeling)

 

when you ________________ (behavior)”

 

Start by sharing your feelings using “I” because when we start with “You”, like “You hurt my feelings”…your friend will get defensive and may stop listening.

 

because ______________________ (why).”

 

Stick to the specific behavior that happened or keeps happening. When we pull in a lot of other behaviors, it might get too tricky to solve all at once.

 

“I would like you to __________.” (request)

 

Stand up tall, look your friend in the eyes and use a calm, confident tone of voice. Our body language is as important as our words.

 

One Week Family “I Power” Challenge

For the next week, try to use “I Power” at home to solve family conflicts. Post the “I Power” framework on your fridge so you have it handy. Notice when you are about to start a sentence with “you” and change the statement to begin with “I.” Keep in mind that the goal is to teach others how you would like to be treated in a way that connects, not divides. As always, I welcome any thoughts and feedback on your “I Power” experiences.

 

PASS IT ON. Jessica Speer’s weekly BLOG focuses on helping kids and families thrive. Posts offer simple ideas to help kids and families connect & foster healthy relationships. If you know someone who might appreciate this content, please pass it on! Click here to follow blog via email or Facebook.

2 thoughts on “Simply Starting With “I” Instead of “You” Changes the Whole Conversation”

  1. My daughter brought this idea home from grade school, and I’ve tried to use it ever since. It is HARD to rearrange your self-righteous anger into an “I” statement. But it does keep communication open!
    Wonderful post, Jessica, as always!

    Like

    1. I love that some schools are introducing this to help kids with conflict resolution. And you are so right, it is really hard to use an “I” statement when we’re angry. I still fall back on my old “you” statement habits sometimes…it’s a lifetime practice;)

      Like

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