Speaking The I

She is exhausted, frustrated and angry

A tissue is shredded between fidgety fingers

It would be useless anyway against the tears

Her feelings have been dammed back in the belief that, whenever she shares, whatever she shares, her family switch off without hearing her

This had led to the belief that they just want her cooking, cleaning, laundry skills and that she doesn’t count at all

‘So tell me what you would like done about it’

‘I want them to listen, to hear me’

I encourage her to imagine I am her family

‘Tell me what you tell them’

I am hit with a long complicated serve of accusation and blaming

Spiralling out of control she gets louder as if this will drive the message home

It is so emotionally charged I fear she’ll burst

I feel myself cringing, mentally stepping away, protecting,

Just as her family does

I stop her and I tell her my experience

She asks

So how do I make them listen?

You can’t make them do anything they don’t want to do

She is silent


I reassure her

Listen they are probably trying to hear you

But there’s too much going on

What you want them to do, is lost in tears and anger

So firstly you need to work out

What is the real problem?

How it makes you feel

What you want to happen

I’ll teach you a way to present the message so it can be clearly heard

These are I statements

I statements speak from your own point of view, something no one else can argue with.

Declare what you experience as the problem

Say how that affects you; use your feeling words here

Then tell them in short clear doing words what you want done to change it.

Do not start any of the sentences with You…

It is confronting and will leave the hearer feeling attacked

Start each sentence with ‘I’

Speak in short factual sentences

Really mean what you say and stand by it.

Be firm but do not shout or raise your voice

No blaming or name calling

You cannot force them to comply but you can allow consequences to reinforce your rule

This may be difficult at first, but it’s a great lesson

For example if you say 

“I am frustrated at having to go looking for dirty clothes on wash day

There are clothes hampers here, here and here

I wash on Mon, Wed and Fri

Please put dirty washing in the hampers

If the clothes are not in the hampers they will not be washed, no matter how urgently they are needed.

I will not go looking for dirty clothes.”

You will need to work it all out before hand

Take time to unpack the difficulty

These things can be like icebergs

Sometimes the real problem is a long way from the irritation

Also accept your part in the solution

It’s no good complaining about dirty washing on the bedroom floor, if there is no where practical to put it.

Don’t make rules lightly

Think them through carefully

Consider all possible consequences

Once a rule is created, stick to it otherwise there will be no respect for you or your word  

This will be very hard to start with, but it’s a great lesson to teach.

Your family will not stop loving if you are being reasonable, by asking them to be organised

Put out reminders so the family can experience success

We work on an example

‘I will be washing tomorrow

I will be working only from the hampers

I will not go looking for laundry

If something is needed, make sure it is in the hamper’

There is another type of ‘I’ statement

For example:

‘I shared how I was feeling about dirty washing,

I asked that you help and you have

I am so pleased you heard me.

It is working really well, I feel much less tired on wash days so thank you.’

She found there Blessings awaiting her as she calmly sat with God to seek out the real reasons behind other difficulties that gnawed away at her

To name feelings and problems was to bring them to light, not always easy to do

God has given us the capacity and power to be self-responsible in all our communication

Effective communication builds deeper more meaningful relationships


In Brief:

I statements

Are from my point of view

I state the problem, how it affects me, and what I’d like done about it

I Sentences start with ‘I’

Instructions are short, factual and clear,

Using lots of verbs (doing words)

I need to accept I cannot make any one do anything they do not want to do

I need to decide what to do if they do not comply

I have an alternative plan in which I am solely responsible for what I want done

Words and Pictures © Denise Stanford 2010

Case details have been altered &/or combined to respect confidentiality 

Nothing written Within the Vine is presented as authoritative direction; it is merely a journal of thoughts, memoirs, and reflections.

~ by Denise Within the Vine on 20/04/2010.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: