We’ve all been there. You come home from work, exhausted, and are already a little bit on edge. Your partner (or roommate, or mom, or cat) does…that…thing. You know the thing. The thing that you always tell him not to do, the thing that grates on your nerves like nails on a chalkboard, the thing that HE WON’T STOP DOING AND YOU DON’T KNOW WHY. So, you freak out.
“You always do this! You are so annoying when you ____! Why can’t you be more like ___?”
He’s, naturally, hurt and defensive. Suddenly you’re arguing full-force, and you go to your bedroom and shut the door. You look at your bed and remember what a fun time you had with this person just last night, lounging on the bed and watching Netflix. You wish you could go back to that.
When we get older, it seems like communication becomes more difficult. You’ve already developed your communication style. You know how to compliment someone and you know how to argue with him. It’s hard to get out of the verbal habits we’ve gotten used to.
But you’re sick of it. Of course you are! It isn’t fun to fight with your loved ones. It doesn’t make you feel good. And the worst part is, if you don’t do anything to break the communication pattern, it’ll just keep happening. The arguments will continue. The cycle will carry on.
This is a super common issue in relationships, which means, lucky for us, professionals have found a way to help resolve these communication problems.
Meet your new best friend: the I-Statement.
Using I-statements is an excellent way of communicating with your partner when something is bothering you without placing the blame on him, thus causing him to react defensively. It’s a way of framing your emotions in a non-threatening manner, so that your partner is more willing to listen to your concerns without the emotional explosives.
The I-Statement is structured into three parts:
- “I feel…”
- Identify your negative emotion
- Describe the situation that makes you feel negatively
- Tell your partner how the situation affects you, or the message that it sends you
So for example, you might say, “I feel stressed when there are clothes lying on the floor, because cluttered rooms heighten my anxiety.” Or, “I feel insecure when I don’t get text message responses, because I interpret that to mean that I’m not being thought about.” This strategy allows your partner to understand exactly how the bothersome action makes you feel and why it makes you feel that way – and it does it without using that defense-encouraging blame word, “you.”
Practice this method next time you feel an argument brewing! Compare and contrast the response that your partner had to this communication style as opposed to your previous, more blame-heavy method. You might find that you get to a healthy resolution much quicker.