Hi Friends! Wherever in the world you are, I hope you are well!
In a few of my recent blog posts or resources I've mentioned something called an "I Statement." I though it was about time that I explained what I meant by that term. I've also added another post on the Resources tab to go alongside this blog.
Have you ever been in an argument where it very quickly descended into a mud-slinging match? Each assailant fighting to dredge up enough ammunition from past mistakes and quarrels to come out on top? Kind of like the Arms Race: each party has to get bigger bombs that they can drop on the other to make sure they're the one on top of the score board.
It's kind of like if you're frustrated with someone's behaviour; and you point it out to them; but then they come back with: "Yeah but you always do this....."
How do these arguments leave you feeling?
Does anything ever get resolved? Do you ever get to the heart of the matter?
In my (considerable) experience of such situations, my answers would read: "I end up feeling ragged, hurt and angry. Further apart from the person I was trying to resolve something with."
Or do you find it difficult getting your needs met or your voice heard? Do you struggle to know what to say in such a situation?
If any of the above rings true for you, the "All-Powerful I-Statement" might be just the thing you need. (They're actually usually just called I-Statements - I added the all-powerful bit for dramatic effect).
But before we go any further, let me ask you a question: "Can I make you feel anything?"
It's a tricky one eh? Yes, the things that I say or do to you will cause an emotional reaction within you. But, is it up to me how you interpret my actions and respond? No, it isn't. Let me show you what I mean. What if I showed up at your door with a beautiful bunch of flowers. How would you feel? Regardless of my intentions, you might have one / some of the following reactions:
- Joy: "someone was thinking of me and has brought me a beautiful gift"
- Suspicion: "what has this person done - why have they brought me flowers?"
- Mistrust: "what does this person want from me? There must be a catch!"
- Sadness: "these flowers are too beautiful - I don't deserve them!"
- Pain: "these flowers remind me of the flowers at my mother's funeral."
Interesting eh? The flowers are just the flowers. They are the trigger. Your reactions depend on your interpretation of the trigger. I have absolutely no control over this. So yes, my actions have consequences on your mood; BUT ultimately, your feelings or emotional responses are wholly your responsibility.
This is why, in an argument, if I say "you make me soooo _________" I am actually passing my responsibility for my interpretation of events onto you. I'm blaming you for my emotional responses. And how will you normally react if I blame you for everything? You'll get mad right? Or feel hurt and accused. You'll probably try and shift the blame back onto me - and the argument will continue.
The reason I've called this post the "All-Powerful" I-Statement is that when I use this very simple tool, I actually become very powerful. If I go around blaming everyone else for my emotional responses and behaviour, I am actually powerless to change. If it's everybody else's fault, I have no responsibility for my actions (which is often a big pay-off) but it ultimately means I'm a victim to my moods and the events that create them.
An I-Statement looks like this:
In the future..................
Simple but powerful!
For me to say "I feel....." it means that I have to first acknowledge and own what it is that I feel. The "When" acknowledges the action of the other. This is the trigger. The "Because" means that I have to know why I am feeling what I am feeling. "Why does this thing make me feel the way that I do? What is causing these feelings?" This process involves some self awareness. Have a read of the Singular Focus series in the previous blog posts to learn more about this area. The "In the future" is an invitation to communication and relationship. I get to say what I would like to happen, and then I get to hear your opinion and desires too. We negotiate and compromise. My needs are important and so are yours.
Here's an example:
"I felt really angry when you didn't show up the other night after we agreed to meet. I guess it's because I felt like you didn't care. I understand that you had an emergency appointment and couldn't make it, but in the future could you send me a txt to let me know what's going on?"
Sounds a little bit better than "you never show up on time and you always leave me waiting" doesn't it?
SO here's a summary:
I Statements diffuse argument rather than inflate it. They give power to the individual to own their emotions and responses. They help the process of insight and self-awareness. They slow down arguments. (If I have to pause and figure out what I feel and why, then put it into the format of an I statement - I'm much less likely to launch into an argument and say or do something that I regret). They invite relationship and communication. The person you're communicating feels heard and listened to, because communication and relationship is now the focus of your conversation - not winning an argument. I-Statements are Awesome!
Have a go.
I'd love to hear your thoughts; and if doing this makes a difference in your relationships!
Have a great week,