A Quick Fix: "I" Instead of "You"
We all struggle with communicating clearly. For some of us, ineffective communication frequently gets us in trouble. Sometimes we have so much in our heads that it’s hard to say it all in a couple sentences. Or, it’s complicated so we get confused and overwhelmed. Other times, we’re emotionally overloaded. Another struggle is having trouble asserting ourselves in a healthy way. Either we are too passive, or we go to the other extreme and verbally attack others.
Knowing some helpful techniques can help us communicate in a healthy way even during difficult circumstances. One such tip is to speak with “I” messages rather than “you” messages. This can facilitate successful communication and eliminate some obstacles when navigating conflict in any relationship.
“You” messages sound like this: You just don’t care … You are a problem … Can’t you do such and such …? You are so…. Generally, “you” messages attack, putting the other person on the defensive. They attribute to others blame, behaviors, motives, and feelings they may or may not have had. Because we can’t know for sure what was going on inside them, we jump to conclusions and block productive conversation about the situation.
“I” messages deal with items you do know. They convey what you feel or what you experienced. Here are some examples: I feel very angry because … I feel rejected when … When I am interrupted I feel ….
Instead of saying, “When you blew me off and forgot to pick me up on time, you rejected me,” you can say, “When I didn’t get picked up on time, I felt unimportant.” You aren’t saying what the other person felt or why, you are just stating the situation as you know and experienced it. Hopefully, the other person can do the same and you can share what is in your hearts clearly and accurately instead of holding a blame and judgment fest. “I” statements don’t declare you are right and the other person is wrong, you are just stating what you observed and how it affected you, and hoping the other person can do the same.
“I” messages communicate honesty and openness. The Bible teaches us to build up, not tear down. By using “I” messages, we are less likely to harm and break down others, while still allowing ourselves to be open, honest, transparent, and vulnerable.
Today, monitor your speech. How many times do you use “you” statements? Try practicing even in good circumstances. “When the door is opened for me, I feel special. Thanks for holding the door for me!” Then you will be more apt to use “I” statements in the more difficult times when communication is essential. During a conflict, you can also ask the other party to use “I” statements to tell you what happened and how they felt in the situation. Whether you responsibly steward your communication or you blame others and are toxic is your decision, so choose well.
Dear Father God, help me to be more gracious in communicating with my spouse and loved ones. I seem to get most upset with and make accusatory statements to those I care about the most. Help me understand myself better and take responsibility for my feelings, for what comes out of my mouth, and most importantly, for what is in my heart. Help me to build up and not tear down. I pray this and all prayers in the name of the One you sent to teach me, Jesus Christ; and all God’s children say – AMEN!
Be gracious in your speech. The goal is to bring out the best in others in a conversation, not put them down, and not cut them out. Colossians 4:6