Are “I-Statements” Selfish or Helpful?

An interesting question came up during today’s communications class. We were discussing ‘I-statements’: the technique of talking from one’s own point of view about how another’s behavior is impacting us.  “I-Statements” are commonly recommended as a way to create less confrontational conversations when a conflict is afoot. It’s generally thought to be better than accusatory statements.

For example, “I am uncomfortable with …” or “I feel unimportant when…” tend to get a Screen Shot 2018-03-13 at 4.43.49 PMbetter response than blaming “you-you-you”.

That said, a question was raised: isn’t all this “I-I-I” talk selfish? Several thought it was.

Sure. All that “I-talk” can be very offputting in a daily, social conversation. However, when two or a few of us are in conflict, “you’s”can begin to sound accusatory, judgmental, even hostile:

“You are irresponsible.” “You are selfish.” “You don’t listen.” “You interrupt.”

And so, while it may seem counterintuitive, in this context, I-statements can help keep a difficult conversation grounded in care and respect.

 “I-Statements” inform you of  how I am feeling – information that gives you insight into the impact of your behavior/words. With an I-Statement, I  offer you the chance to shift your behavior out of respect for me. 

In fact, I honor you by not judging or hiding from you. Rather than attack, I let you know how you are impacting me so you can choose anew, hoping you will honor me with that choice. 

What do you think about using I-Statements?

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