Using “I” Statements to Foster Communication in Relationships

By Salina Grilli, LMSW

In my previous post, I spoke about the four communication styles that predict the demise of relationships. This post will focus on one way to strengthen relationships through communication: using "I" statements. 

In the heat of an argument, our natural tendency is to accuse the other individual of their wrongdoing by using “you” statements. For example,  

  • “Why do you always forget to take out the trash?”
  • “You were late again. Clearly you only care about yourself!”

Sound familiar? These statements are actually toxic. Rather than bringing about a positive change in the relationship, “you” statements put the other person on the defense. In turn, this creates more conflict and hostility.

In contrast to “you” statements, “I” statements foster positive communication by reducing defensiveness and blame in the other person. “I” statements include two components: a feeling and an explanation: “I feel emotion word when explanation of problem.” Some examples of“I” statements include:

  • “I feel very lonely (emotion word) when you come home late from work and don’t call to let me know (explanation of problem).” 
  • “I am frustrated (emotion word) because you keep forgetting to wash your dishes even though you promise that you will (explanation of problem).

Practice using “I” statements next time you voice a grievance to your partner. Notice how your partner responds. Are they more receptive? Are you able to get your point across? Using “I” statements take practice, so don’t get discouraged if it takes some time to getting the hang of! 

Salina Grilli is a therapist at Cobb Psychotherapy. If you would like support with increasing positive communication in relationships, contact Cobb Psychotherapy and see how therapy can help.