Couples I work with are often skeptical about the possibility of change in their relationships. When people reach an impasse, they tend to believe they have to give up a significant part of themselves or give up on what’s meaningful to them, in order to avoid fighting. Like the only way for you to keep the peace is by not insisting on your needs and boundaries. Sounds familiar?
That’s why I love showing people I-statements. They are such a simple, powerful tool, that has the potential to truly shift the dynamics — when we use them correctly. Because, as it turns out, you can say almost anything in the world in ways that feel safer, or less safe. So what are I-statements, and how do we apply them?
I-statements are a way to communicate and express our feelings to our partners in a way that can be heard, without triggering defensiveness. When this happens, empathy is possible and closeness is established. For example: instead of saying, “You think I have to be a professional chef to be good enough for you!”, say: “I feel worthless when I hear that the food I made is not liked”. That’s it! Simple, right? But just because something is simple, it doesn’t make it easy.
To use I-statements effectively, we have to let go of a favorite defense mechanism: Blame. Instead of pointing out my partner’s mistakes and attacking them — I have to expose a sensitive piece of myself. And when our feelings are hurt, that can feel unsafe. The thing is, not a lot of things can have such a positive impact on our relationships, and bring them back into safety as I-statements can. It’s totally worth it.