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.

Some I-statements

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

Some You-statements

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.

The basic premise

I-statements do more than we think they are capable of. They assist in:

  • Inculcating responsibility
  • Instilling active listening
  • Learning to empathize
  • Working collaboratively
  • Seeing all points of view
  • Respecting all humanity
  • Encouraging openness
  • Building better intimacy
  • Being less threatening
  • Arousing positive change

‘I’ makes you assertive

When people use I-statements they:

  • Express their thoughts openly
  • Don’t need to repress emotions
  • Do not exhibit aggression at all
  • Have control on their resentment
  • Do not attack people’s character
  • Are aware of their own rights
  • Acknowledge their limitations
  • Focus on action and not emotion
  • Get known as ‘people’s persons

I versus You workshop

The workshop is designed to help employees and the management:

  • Deal with complex change
  • Improve relationships
  • Manage conflicts at work
  • Build closer knit teams
  • Enhance responsibility
  • Deconstruct the hierarchy
  • Build interpersonal regard
  • Help people to empathize
  • Improve communication skills
  • Build a culture of respect