Archive of ‘Connection’ category

“I” Statements: What They Are and How to Use Them

Have you ever found yourself frustrated with your partner because they just never seem to really understand what you’re saying? Maybe you’ve tried to gently confront them about something, but end up in an argument. Maybe you try to talk to them, but are always met with the same reactions over and over again, no matter what words you use. Maybe you’ve given up on a particular sticky topic, and have stopped trying to even talk to your partner about it.

If anything above or any similar communication issues are happening in your life, it might be a great time to try out “I” statements!

What is an I Statement?

The formula that I like to use is like an emotionally vulnerable game of mad libs: “I feel (insert emotion word here) when (situation).”

Some examples of this could be “I feel frustrated when the dishwasher isn’t loaded efficiently,” or “I feel happy when we cuddle”, or past-tense “I felt really worried and scared when I had no idea where my wife was all night,” or even a reverse of the formula “Sometimes when I hear loud noises, like the door slamming, I feel nervous and get distant.”

There are SO many ways to use “I” Statements! Even something as simple as “I get mad when I’m hungry” or “That frustrates me,” can be considered “I” Statements! 

Avoid Blaming the Other Person

You’ll notice in all of my examples, I avoid the word “you”. When we use the word “you” while confronting someone, they tend to get defensive and it becomes more difficult for them to connect with and hear what you are saying. One goal of an “I” Statement is to simply let the other person (or people) we are communicating with into our head, to understand what we are going through. Another goal is that we want to transform our communication from me vs. you into me + you vs. the problem

We can avoid using the word “you” by transforming the statement into a bit of a beating-around-the-bush phrase. If I wanted to tell my husband “you loaded the dishwasher wrong,” it would make him immediately defensive and feel blame and shame. To avoid this, I can 1) tell him my emotions and 2) make it about me, not him. An “I” Statement I could use would be “I feel really frustrated and annoyed when the dishwasher is loaded this way.” He is now more inclined to be on my team, to help me with the problem, rather than defending his way of doing things and arguing with me. 

Here’s another example of the beating-around-the-bush way of phrasing an “I” Statement: let’s pretend Noah’s girlfriend, Olivia, is angry that Noah keeps leaving the toilet seat up. She usually approaches him by saying “Ugh, you left the toilet seat up again! You have to stop doing that!” and he never changes his behavior. She would need to let Noah know her feelings behind the toilet seat: “Hey babe, when the toilet seat gets left up, it makes me feel anxious. Then anytime I try to talk about my need for it to be down, my need gets ignored and that makes me feel disrespected and unvalued.” She has successfully avoided the word “you”!

Why Use “I” Statements?

In addition to the previously stated goals of “I” Statements (letting our partner into our head, and turning the conflict into a me + you vs. the problem dynamic), another goal is to get to the bottom of the conversation. Usually, the argument isn’t actually about what we spend time fighting over. The argument is usually about our feelings.

Sticking with the Noah and Olivia toilet seat example, the goal of using that “I” Statement (or here, two “I” Statements in a row) is for Olivia to begin talking about what is really bothering her, because it isn’t about the toilet seat. It’s about an emotion, in this case, the emotions of feeling disrespected and unvalued. Once Noah realizes that his behavior of leaving the toilet seat up is activating Olivia’s feelings of disrespect and being unvalued, he is more likely to have the me + you vs. the problem mentality. By using “I” Statements, we’ve been able to help both partners see that the problem was never the toilet seat. The problem was Olivia’s anxiety, then her feelings of disrespect and being unvalued. 

TLDR (too long; didn’t read)

The formula for “I” Statements is “I feel (insert emotion word here) when (situation).”

Try to avoid the word YOU when using an “I” Statement.

Goals of using “I” Statements include:

  1. let the other person (or people) we are communicating with into our head, to understand what we are going through
  2. transform our communication from me vs. you into me + you vs. the problem
  3. get to the bottom of the conflict (i.e. the emotions)

If you’re interested in working on “I” Statements and other communication issues with me, click here to schedule a session!

The Power of Curiosity

Curiosity can be a powerful perspective when addressing difficult experiences that invites both self compassion and compassion for others. 

Curiosity With Yourself

I have included fellow clinicians’ blog posts that address the power of increasing emotional awareness and decreasing judgment of emotions. Within this process, being curious with yourself, your thoughts, and your emotions can reduce the critical voice and self-judgment that can emerge in stressful experiences.

A few examples to try:

  • I wonder if I can slow this down to better understand.
  • What emotions am I experiencing in this moment?
  • How is my body feeling?
  • I wonder what it would be like to sit with this feeling just a bit longer.
  • What would it be like to name/share this feeling/experience?

Curiosity With Others

Though I will refer to connecting and communicating with children, preteens, and teens, this curiosity approach can apply to interacting with anyone at any age, a partner, adult family member, or close friends. Curiosity can provide a felt sense of safety and compassion for others. Including curiosity statements or questions throughout conversation conveys a striving to understand rather than assume, to connect rather than criticize or correct, and ultimately that you are listening so they feel heard. 

In Context of Development

Utilizing curiosity with children, preteens, and teens encourages mutual respect and a sense of empowerment for them to share their feelings and experience. A curious perspective from caregivers and adults can help children develop self-reflection and creative problem solving. Have you experienced a child or teen struggling with anger, fear, or sadness and wanted to provide the perfect advice or give them the solution? It is possible to relieve this pressure or urgency to solve the problem for them by reflecting and validating their feelings, meeting them with curiosity to create solutions together, and hear their ideas of what could be helpful. Have you experienced a child or teen struggling with challenging behavior and wanted to correct them, tell them what they did/are doing wrong, and what they should do instead? Again, curiosity for their experience and feelings allows them to feel seen and understood, regulates and integrates their experience, and reduces the power struggle that can emerge. 

In Practice

Below are a few examples of reflecting someone’s feelings and offering curiosity statements or questions, compiled from resources listed at the end of the article:

  • “I wonder if you feel (insert feeling here)…”
  • Tell me more about that.
  • What happened?
  • I wonder how that makes you feel. How do you feel about it?
  • I wonder what ideas you have?
  • I wonder what could be helpful. What can I do to support you?
  • Is there anything else that you want to say about that?
  • What suggestions or ideas do you have?
  • Is there any other information you can give me to help me understand?
  • What do you need to figure it out?
  • Is there anything else that is bothering you? 

References & Resources

Rebuilding Trust in Relationships

Trust forms the foundation of healthy relationships. Whether through infidelity or other forms of unmet expectations, a betrayal of trust can place an otherwise healthy relationship in jeopardy. The rebuilding of trust after a betrayal can be a daunting task, but couples who are committed to the process of healing may benefit from a renewed sense of connection when the effort has been put forth.

Increasing Understanding and Empathy

Both partners will undoubtedly have their own perspectives on the events surrounding the breach of trust. It’s important to first make sure the relevant details and facts are made clear to each partner. The offending partner should allow space for the betrayed partner to ask questions and also be able to listen to the concerns and feelings expressed by the betrayed partner. Once both sides have a clearer picture of the situation, it is then possible to begin the process of apologizing. A sincere apology from the offending partner should include the facts of the situation, convey a sense of understanding of the other partner’s perspective, and a willingness to take meaningful steps toward rebuilding trust. For the betrayed, it’s important to commit to actively listening, accept repair attempts, and consider if any of their own behavior has caused distress in the relationship prior to the offense.


Both partners must see value in the relationship before there can be motivation for embarking on the difficult journey of rebuilding trust. Commitment is formed when partners examine their emotional attachment to each other, show a desire to persist, and can envision long term goals for the relationship. Partners can show this commitment to each other by openly asking for what they need in the relationship, have consistent and honest communication, and express their feelings openly without fear of judgment. It may also be necessary to revisit the rules or boundaries of the relationship – what is acceptable or not acceptable behavior? What are each partner’s needs? Setting such boundaries can help to provide a sense of safety and control in an otherwise chaotic period in the relationship.

Making Time and Space for Emotions

It’s important to recognize that both partners may feel very strong emotions during this time. Sadness, anger, fear, frustration can manifest throughout the process of healing. Rather than try to hide or contain such feelings, both partners should allow the other space to express them in a healthy manner while also validating these feelings. During these difficult times, the other party can consider this an opportunity to show empathy by acknowledging these feelings and letting their partner know that it’s okay to feel a certain way or if they share that feeling.  

Reigniting the Connection

When both partners have established their commitment to each other, it can help to envision the relationship moving forward as a completely new and separate one. Use this time of heightened awareness to define common future goals in both the short and long term. Try new activities or reflect on any particularly joyous memories from the past in order to ignite a new spark. Focusing on the future and making new positive memories brings new hope to the relationship and strengthens the foundation of trust.

In Summary

Rebuilding trust after a breach is possible but requires hard work from both parties. With patience, time, and effort, couples may overcome such obstacles and ultimately find a strengthened connection with one another. While it is certainly possible for some couples to rebuild on their own, others may find that attending a couples counseling session with a therapist as a neutral third party can help them navigate the rough waters at every stage of the process so that each partner may make the best decision for themselves. If both partners are not yet ready to take the step toward commitment, individual therapy is a great option for gaining insight into what may be the best path forward.

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