I Statement Guide

Last time I talked about communication basics with dealing with the mentally ill. The could serve well with anyone also. The I-statement is the same way. If we would communicate with I-statements, there would be less arguments, less blaming, more REAL communication.

I-statements start out with stating how I feel.  I am making a very specific, direct communication about what I think, or what I feel, or what I want. In “I-statements”, I am at the center of the communication. I take complete responsibility for my feelings and opinions. I don’t waiver: I don’t equivocate. I say what I mean. AND THAT IS ALL I DO. I don’t explain. I don’t go on about it.

Suggested I-statements: “I get upset when you shout at me. I would appreciate it if you spoke quietly to me.”

“I feel happy when you clean your room without me having to remind you.”

“I feel scared when you drink and drive.”

I-statements are helpful to me when I want to:

a. Express negative feelings: “When you pace in the front yard, I get uncomfortable. I would feel better if you would stop that.”

b. Make a request: “I want you to wash up our dishes. I feel relieved to know the kitchen will be tidy when I get home from work.”

c. Give positive feedback: “I like your hair pulled back. I’m happy when I see you taking care of yourself.”

Remember these points:

a. People coping with mental illness are often intensely self-involved and distracted. Many times they are not remotely aware of our feelings and responses. I-statements get their attention.

b. I-statements announce that we have strong feelings about some of the things our relative is doing. It’s easier to reach an agreement when your relative hears exactly how you feel. I-statements do this job.

c. I-statements also communicate that you are ready to take the initiative, to bring the issues out into the open, to stand your ground.

I use I-statements to signal my boundaries and my limits. To do this:

a. I say what I mean. I make direct, clear statements as to what I expect.

b. I mean what I say. I am consistant and follow through on what I have said.

c. I stick with the issue I’ve raised. I don’t “waffle” on the point.

It doesn’t work to duck I-statements by using the pronoun “you”. You-statements sound like you are pointing your finger at the other person, accusing and blaming. Your message will not get across if your relative is placed in a defensive position.

This information is some more of the information adapted from the NAMI Family to Family. I have heard of I-statements many years ago. You can learn how to use them in just about any parenting class you take. I-statements are very powerful.

One thing when you make an I-statement. Imagine a huge period at the end of the statement. End the statement with no more explanation. Do not go on and on. End it. Period.

I feel ________ when you _________ PERIOD.

I __________ when you _________ Period.

Practice it. It works. I promise.