Quick Tip for Effective Dialogue: Making “I” Statements

Posted December 14th, 2009 by The Steve Alexander Group

Communication can be a challenge whenever it involves more than one person (sometimes, we can even confuse ourselves all alone with our own internal self-talk!). A quick tip from the world of therapy can be applied in our day-to-day communications with profound impact. Try it and let us know how it works for you. More to come in future posts.

Make “I” statements – This doesn’t mean looking people in the eye, though that will help also! Start your communications with the word “I” rather than “you.” When you use “you,” it variably puts your listener on the defensive and can be viewed as an attempt to relieve you of your own responsibility in the communication. Conversation usually deteriorates rapidly.

For example, instead of “You really bother me when you don’t show up on time,” try “I get upset when people arrive late.” (Of course, you also want to be aware that you’re responsible for your own feelings and actions, so this statement means you have to look at your own responsibility for your feelings about how you react to what others do; what you feel is an option, not a mandate.) Even better is “I appreciate it when you show up on time,” which represents your thoughts about an issue. It also allows you to make an aspirational statement about what you expect from another.

Next time you’re in dialogue with someone, remember the role you play in talking about yourself, your feelings and your thoughts, and describe both what you want and need from the other person. Your next job is to listen. That’s why it’s called dialogue.

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