Attending graduate school for counseling opened my eyes to many of my own issues. Through the counseling program, I figured I would learn about issues “other people” have and how to treat them . This was not the case; I quickly learned that to become a counselor, I must know myself first. I’ll be the first to admit my imperfections; one of which is that I sometimes blame other people or events for my own unhappiness. One of the first lessons in the counseling program is that I cannot blame other people for how I feel or react. The beauty of I-statements is that we take responsibility for the way we feel. Example of what is NOT an I-statement:
“You make me feel terrible!”
Example of an I-statement:
“I feel jealous when you brag about your fancy house.”
Beginning with “you” places the blame on the other person, which may elicit feelings of defensiveness and resentment. When I take ownership of my feelings, the other person can realize that what they say has a negative impact on others, but without feeling attacked. I had an experience at the gym yesterday that reminded me of I-statements.
Girl at front desk: “do you have your card?” Me: “Sure. By the way, YOU guys are very inconsistent about asking for cards. I never know if you want me to swipe it.” Girl: “Maybe YOU should just swipe it every time!”
I clearly put the gym employee on the defense. The situation really boiled my blood and I took my anger out on the treadmill, which was perfect because I had a tempo run scheduled. However, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that I should have said that differently or kept my mouth shut. The conversation SHOULD have gone like this:
Girl: “do you have your card?” Me: “Sure. I’m confused about swiping my card because most of the time you guys don’t ask me to – even when I try to have you swipe it.” Girl: “Sorry for the confusion. We are starting a new policy of swiping all members in for their protection.” (Or something of that nature).
By the way, I still believe that I’m completely right in the situation because whenever I dig out my membership card, the workers almost NEVER want to see it. I completely stopped taking it out on gym trips because the staff didn’t seem to be doing their job. Obviously I’m still bitter, haha! Regardless of who is wrong or right, saying “you” really rubs people the wrong way and is highly unproductive in resolving issues. Confrontation can be less intimidating with the use of I-statements.