Communication is a huge piece in relationships. It is so important that is can impact as to whether the relationships is succeeding or deteriorating. So many people are always looking for help in improving their communication and especially learning healthier communication in their marriages.
It is not easy though. Having healthy communication takes learning, practicing, setbacks & commitment. There is more than just one piece though to healthy communication. There are multiple pieces!
The famous “I” statements: So many of us hear is to use “I” statements instead of “you” statements. I know they talk about this in school & the workplace too. That’s because it does make a difference & it’s a great start! The sooner you begin practicing this, the better. When we speak from an “I” place, the listener is less likely to become defensive & more receptive as “you” statements sound to be more attacking, blaming, criticizing & hurtful & that will usually take the conversation down a path we don’t want it to go on.
The way we start our conversations can have a big impact on how the rest of the conversation is going to go. Using “I” statements instead of “you” will get you on the right track to start with. (Don’t forget there are more pieces to healthy communication).
But you can’t just say “I hate when you don’t listen to me” OR “I want you to stop being with your friends and be with me more so I know you care about our marriage” OR “I think you aren’t trying to make this better” …. While these do start with “I” it still sounds like there is some attacking, blaming and some criticism.
So how do you use the “I” statements?
Here’s a start…
“I feel ______________ because ______________. I need _____________.”
“I feel…” What are you feeling? What are your emotions. Not just those overlying emotions like mad, angry, happy, scared but dig deeper! Find what emotions are making you feel mad, happy, angry, scared, etc. Emotions like loneliness, vulnerable, jealous, satisfaction, etc.
“because…” now why are you feeling that emotion(s)? What is the situation that is causing this emotion? This isn’t what the other person is or isn’t doing. This isn’t judgement of the other person’s character. Examples might be “because I do not feel listened to or heard” or “because I don’t feel cared about” or “because I am home alone frequently”… hopefully you get that part. It’s one of the harder steps in “I” statements because this is where we tend to blame the other person or criticize them.
“I need…” the “I” statement ends with you sharing what you need to help this emotion. THIS IS NOT when you list off what your spouse or child should or shouldn’t be doing! What is it that you are needing? Why are you sharing your feelings? Examples might include “I need to feel validated & heard” or “I need to feel that I am cared about” or “I need to feel like I’m trusted” … try your very hardest not to use “you” in this part.
“I feel alone & unimportant because I don’t feel that what I say is being listened to or my feelings aren’t being validated. I need my emotions to be validated & my voice to be heard.”
“I feel anxious & worried because I don’t know what time you are coming home and I stay awake worried about your safety. I need to know where you are and what time I can expect you home.”
Try practicing this first step on your own. Say them in your mind or write them down. Remember, practicing communication skills when our emotions are not heightened will better prepare us for when they are!