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Words matter: “You” vs. “I”

“You are such a slob. You just expect me to clean up after you.”
“You are always working. Work is more important to you than your family.”
“You are so frivolous. You just think money grows on trees.”

Sound familiar?

Arguments about housework, priorities and money are nothing new. In fact, for many couples, they are weekly challenges. But that is exactly why choosing the right words during an argument is so important.

Even when you have the best of intentions, what you say can escalate an argument into a full-blown fight and really hurt the one you love. And one of the most common mistakes those in a relationship make with their language is the use of “you-statements.”

WHAT IS A “YOU-STATEMENT?”

“You-statements,” such as those listed above, are phrases that begin with the pronoun “you” and imply that the listener is responsible for something. They show no ownership of emotions, but rather, blame, accuse and assume the receiver. This type of statement is more likely to make your partner feel defensive and resentful, and he or she will be less likely to want to make peace.

WHAT IS AN “I-STATEMENT?”

“I-statements,” on the other hand, force us to take responsibility for what we are thinking and feeling, and prevents us from blaming our partners. With “I-statements,” we can still be assertive, but find a less hostile, more compassionate way to communicate.

FORMING “I-STATEMENTS”

So how do you turn a “you-statement” into an “I-statement?”

First, remember that the point of an “I-statement” is to express how you feel inside. A true “I-statement” uses specific emotions such as “I feel…” joyful, anxious, lonely, resentful, angry, calm, embarrassed, fearful, etc.

Avoid words that may seem like emotions, but really imply the action of your partner: “I feel…ignored, annoyed, pissed off, mistreated, manipulated, controlled, cheated, abandoned, etc.”

It is also a common misperception that you can tack on the words “I feel” in front of a statement. For example, “I feel like you are taking me for granted.” That is just a “you-statement” in disguise. It implies blame. And there is no actual emotion being expressed.

To help you better understand how you to turn a “you-statement” into an “I-statement,” consider how to change your language during these common conflicts:

Header image © Rido/shutterstock
Kerry Song

Kerry Song is a writer and producer with a background in economics and finance. Her passion is to create meaningful content that engages and empowers the audience to become more mindful and more compassionate with themselves and with others.

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