I love I Statements and I hate I Statements. Let me explain.
I was first introduced to I Statements when I took the LDS family services marriage class. I learned more about them when I read Gottmans’s books.
I Statements are often misunderstood and frequently used as weapons instead of tools. I know I have used them in both capacities.
An I Statement is a communication form that focuses on the speakers thoughts and feelings and not on the other persons thoughts or characteristics.
- I am upset when others do not clean up after themselves
- I am sad when people yell near me
- I am frustrated when the dog does not get fed.
They are super helpful because often we use statements that blame the other person for our feelings. These statements are like daggers. Here are some examples;
- You make me so mad when you don’t clean up your dishes.
- You are such a jerk.
- You forgot to feed the dog again.
The main problem I have with I Statements is that they STILL imply that another person or a situation has control over my feelings. That if the circumstance was different I would feel better.
For example, the above I Statements imply that my upset is caused by the dirty house, my sadness is caused by yelling and my frustration is caused by a hungry dog.
In reality my feeling of upset is caused by my thoughts about the mess. My sadness is caused by my thoughts about yelling. My frustration is caused by my thoughts about people who forget to feed the dog.
When a situation or a person has the power to control or dictate my emotions. I am powerless. That is why I do not like I Statements.
They can be helpful in communication, and can be a great first step to improve the quality of a relationship. But they are really only a first step as they still cause me to feel powerless.
Let me give two examples to help explain:
I was with my therapist and husband talking about my faith transition. I used classic I Statements.
I don’t feel safe talking about religion. I don’t feel understood. I want to be able to talk about and share what I am going through.
It was nice to share my feelings (and that is important). However, I still felt it was my husband’s responsibility to change so I could feel safe and understood. I remained powerless to feel better. My ability to feel better was solely in my husband’s hands even if he was explicitly names, it was definitely implied.
Second example, I was talking with my coach about feeling disempowered in my relationship and like I have no voice. I do not feel like a partner in my relationship.
My coach asked me, “How are you not showing up as a partner in your relationship? What could you do to show up as a full partner?”
Both my coach and my therapist are super helpful and I used I Statements in both situations. In the second example, my coach was able to reframe the issue into one of personal responsibility.
This is a HUGE difference. In the first situation, I had to rely on the other person to change. This is a problem as it sets me up to manipulate or be disappointed or both.
Personal responsibility is hard, but ultimately easier because it is actually possible. You actually have control over how you show up. The power to feel better was in my hands. I had control over my emotions. This is personal power.
Here are a few examples of some Personal Responsibility statements:
- What do I want to feel and what do I need to think to feel that ?
- Only I have power to create my emotions.
- I cannot control how another acts, but I can choose how I act.
Are you interested in learning more about personal responsibility? Email me if you want to hop on a free call and see how coaching can help you and your marriage. The call will take about an hour and we can discuss your exact situation and see exactly how to create a thriving mixed faith marriage.
Talk to you soon,