The power of the I!
I-statements are used to help express yourself and tends to diminish the potential for arguments. In an I-statement, instead of focusing on the other person’s “faults”, we focus on our own feelings. For example, ‘I feel anxious when you don’t text me that you arrived safely at home’. This could easily lead to an altercation if you had just said, “you never text! You don’t care!”. I only use this as an example, but I’m sure for some of you, it may be very relatable. Imagine another example, something a bit more relevant to social media and relationships today.
Jamie: “Do you like BooBoo123??? Why are you liking their picture??”
Jordan: “Relax! It’s just a picture!”
Jamie: “I feel hurt when you like BooBoo123’s pictures on Instagram”.
Jordan: “I’m sorry; I never meant to hurt you and didn’t realize that that hurt you”.
Again, these are just examples and if you have ever been in Jamie and Jordan’s situation, it may look very different. But the good thing about the second example is that it allows you to express your feelings regarding their behaviors. It takes blaming a person and turns it into owning your own experiences and communicating that with the person. It takes the action of pointing fingers and it truly focuses on the three fingers pointed back towards us. And that’s how it really happens. We can’t change or control what other people do. We can only control what we do and how we respond to a behavior that makes us feel uncomfortable, sad, nervous, etc. The hope in using these I-statements is that the other person will not get as defensive and effective communication will come into play. There is also hope that there might be a change of action to the person you are openly communicating with. You are giving them a chance to respond to your feelings.
Using the example from above, Jordan can now decide what to do. Jordan is now well aware of how Jamie feels as the result of the likes of IG pictures. Jordan is probably more likely to openly communicate and not become defensive when Jamie’s feelings are being heard.
If this is something you have tried, and you are met with “you’re overreacting” or “you shouldn’t feel that way” which is the unfortunate truth for many, then the broken record method can also help. Continuing to express your feelings even if the other person becomes defensive. It might look something like this:
Jamie: “I feel hurt and insecure when you like BooBoo123’s pictures on Instagram”.
Jordan: “I really don’t see the big deal…it’s just a picture”.
Jamie: “I hear you, but I feel hurt when you do that”.
Jordan: “I don’t think it’s that serious”.
Jamie: “I hear what you are saying but I do feel hurt”.
Jordan: “OK…well I don’t want you to feel hurt”.
Jamie: “I don’t want to feel hurt either”.
Eventually Jordan will choose how to respond. Jamie will also choose to respond based on Jordan’s response. This won’t necessarily lead to Jordan stopping this behavior but that’s up to Jordan. And yes, it may hurt Jamie even more, but at least Jamie is aware that Jordan is continuing a behavior that does not make Jamie feel very good. There is not necessarily a right answer to this. It may lead to Jordan’s decision of stopping the likes of IG photos, but it may not. It may lead to Jordan sharing feelings as well; a more serious conversation about how they both feel about the situation. Hopefully it opens up doors for communication rather than getting defensive responses and a potential altercation.