The value of speaking for yourself instead of your partner… I Statements. You’ve probably heard of the concept, whether in school or in therapy yourself. In case you’ve forgotten, here’s an easy breakdown for you:
Step 1: State your emotion, using the words “I feel ….. ”
Step 2: Explicitly describe the behavior “when you ….. ”
Step 3: Explain why their behavior causes you to feel this way “because ….. ”
Example: I feel lonely when you stay at work late on a Friday night because I miss you during the week and I look forward to my weekends with you.
While this can be a very valuable skill to practice over and over when communicating with your partner, the reality is… Who thinks to calmly speak this way when they’re in the heat of the moment? I’m sure you’re thinking of a time right now when you could’ve communicated in a better way with your partner. When your husband forgets to take the trash out again for the third time and you just came home from a stressful board meeting… or when your wife made fun of you when you wore that stupid hat again even though you’ve told her that it’s your favorite.
How can one react in a way that their beliefs and opinions are fully HEARD?
Here are some of our helpful tips that may allow you to communicate in a healthier way:
- Focus on yourself instead of your spouse. Keep the focus on yourself so that your partner listens more to how it is affecting YOU rather than on what they did wrong. Most likely, they know what they did! They need to hear how it has affected YOU.
- Try to use concrete examples of what your partner has done to make you feel this way. The more specific you are, the simpler it is for your partner to visualize how they can prevent that from happening again. Instead of saying, “You always make fun of me and it hurts my feelings”, try saying, “I feel embarrassed and unloved when you comment on how weird my hat is in front of our friends at dinner.”
- Stay away from exaggerations. “You ALWAYS forget my birthday”, or “You never ask me what restaurant I want to go”, or “You slept in for the millionth time”. Instead, try focusing on giving an example of when it happened and address it each time instead of waiting until it’s happened too many times for you to count.
- Take a time out. It is almost impossible for your partner to really hear where you are coming from when you react in an irrational state. Try to take a 10-15 minute time out, cool down, then come up with your I statements BEFORE you address the situation. It will be easier for your spouse to listen to your feelings when you are calm. They will hear your feelings, not your heightened reaction.
This is a lot to take in! But, if you remember anything at all, refer to the key essentials next time:
Address what the issue is, why it is an issue, what you would like done differently, and why that would be meaningful to you.
Healthy communication can take a lot of hard work in a relationship. So many of our problems in life result from us not addressing the behavior that is causing us such emotional turmoil. Don’t be too hard on yourself, just try to take a time out, come back to your partner, and use some of our helpful tips. Good luck!