Power of the ‘I’ statement
Focus: Inward or Outward?
‘I’ tends to get misconstrued as selfishness, self-centeredness, or egotism. However ‘I’ here stands for accountability, responsibility, and conscientiousness. ‘I’ marks the beginning and end of the self and directs energies towards the outer world. When we talk of the self we take responsibility for our actions. That is the right focus: restraint emanating from within.
I-message and I-statement
Coined by Thomas Gordon in 1960, the I-message is an assertion of values; notions and emotions of a person expressed from an individual standpoint and not put forth a worldview. These statements usually begin with the word ‘I’ and enable the person speaking them to take accountability for their thought, emotion and action. It offers ownership for feelings rather than implying them on another. This is the opposite of the you-message, which focus on the second person, and begins with the word ‘you’, thereby accusing, blaming and holding the opposite person responsible for negative outcomes.
To use I-messages, one must use an interest-based approach with respect for others.
- I could not understand anything that was written in that long assignment
- I did not realize that I had to sign the whole bunch of reports so urgently
- I like all the meeting protocols prepared at least 24 hours in advance
- I do not like bright colors and I feel they look gaudy on a formal occasion
- I don’t like chicken cooked in this curry, it just spoils the taste of the meat
- I don’t like seeing action movies during the night, it gives me a headache
The following represent the corresponding You-statements which are not so respectful.
- You did not write that assignment properly, it was just not decipherable
- You never mentioned that all those reports had to be signed so urgently
- You did not prepare all the protocols well in time for me to plan things
- You have a bad choice in colors and what you selected looks really gaudy
- You have a limited expertise in cooking and this meat doesn’t taste good
- You always want to see such movies at night which give me a headache
Assertive vs. Defensive
Good communication is like a magical key to opening locks in all interpersonal interaction. Negating another’s opinion puts one on the defensive, hinders openness in expression and diminishes trust. But by using the ‘I’, one takes accountability for feelings, rather than saying that they are caused by another person. This allows the other person to think and respond without getting defensive or aggressive. It is important to break blocking barriers of human communication. Our organizational behaviorists aim to assist your employees as well as managers and leaders attain this magic key to unlock communication barriers.