When you are communicating with a person who is in conflict with you it is very easy to point fingers and lay blame. This can be a quick communication block for obvious reasons. As a public speaking coach here in Charlotte NC, I see a great deal of this at any given time. So how can you get your point across without totally alienating the person with whom you are speaking? One way to aid this process is to use “I” statements instead of “You” statements.
What this means is that instead of phrasing your statement in a way that makes the other person feel like you are placing blame, you make a statement that makes it clear that you are trying to see exactly what they are trying to convey even if you do not necessarily agree. Here are a few traditional “You” statements and an alternative “I” statement in bolded type that you could possibly use in their place:
“You are not listening.”
“I am not feeling heard right now.”
“You are wrong about that.”
“I see this differently than you do.”
“You need to back off.”
“I feel like you are invading my personal space.”
The examples could go on and on but this can give you an idea of how to rephrase your thoughts from “You” to “I” statements. Using the “I” type statements not only reduce feelings of blame but at the same time make your feelings, thoughts, and opinions known. Another tip is to not use statements that contain the word “better” or any similar words. For example, “I think my way is better.” Using these words even in an “I” statement can bring up feelings of resentment or anger and can quickly block further communication or even escalate a conflict.
There are times when an “I” type of communication statement can help to defuse a situation more quickly than an argument ever could. However, it is not foolproof and sometimes it is necessary for you to walk away from the situation. That being said, it can go a long way into making everyone involved reach a concession or conclusion more easily in the case of disagreement or conflict.
Sonja Stetzler is an award winning Public Speaking Coach in Charlotte NC who dedicates her time and energy in helping others achieve confidence in effective connecting.