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By Chandrama Anderson

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About this blog: I am a LMFT specializing in couples counseling and have lived in and around Palo Alto since 1969. I worked in high-tech at Apple, Stanford University, and in Silicon Valley for 15 years before becoming a therapist. My background i...  (More)

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"I" Statements that are Actually "You" Statements

Uploaded: Nov 16, 2013
No, that's not a typo. I hear these a lot when I encourage partners to use "I statements" or to share how s/he is feeling. Here are examples of what to skip, and what to try:

Skip:
I feel YOU are angry at me.
I feel like this is a . . . (these are thoughts vs. feelings)
I think YOU aren't listening.
YOU made me feel like I don't matter.

Try:
I feel nervous. What are you feeling?
I feel misunderstood.
I feel unheard.
I feel unimportant.

What's the difference; why does it matter?

There is nothing to argue with when we use an actual "I statement" because it just is how we feel in that moment. What, are you going to answer, "No, you don't feel unheard,"? I hope not. In order for there to be a sticking point, there has to be a hook to get caught on (think Velcro). Velcro needs two matched pieces in order to stick. When you simply state your feeling, you are a smooth surface.

No one wants to be told "You this" or "You that." So your partner is more likely to listen to you.

Of course our impulse to justify is often stronger than our desire to listen. Check in with yourself (not your partner) in this regard.

So, use I statements, and then reflect back what you heard (which is the only place for YOU statements).
You hear: I feel nervous. What are you feeling?
You Say: Oh, you're nervous. I'm feeling agitated.
You hear: I'm feeling agitated.
You Say: Oh, you're agitated. Will you tell me about that?
You hear: I feel misunderstood.
You Say: You feel misunderstood. What is important that you want me
to understand?

Do you get the idea? It's slow, maybe you even think it's cheesy. However, it works. So experiment for yourself, and let me know how it goes.

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