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24-Hour “I” Language Challenge

by Jo-Ann Downey

in Relationship Communication Skills

For the next 24-hours can you communicate with others by using “I” language? For example, an alternative to “You told me you would have the building proposal to me yesterday” is “I would like an update on the building proposal” or, if appropriate, “I would like an update on the building proposal due yesterday.”

Instead of “you have a strong work ethic” you could say “I appreciate your work ethic.” An alternative to “you choose the restaurant” is “I would enjoy it if you chose the restaurant.” The 24-hour challenge includes written communications.  Challenge yourself, see how you feel, and observe how others respond. And have fun!

Below is excerpt from “I” Language Series: Responsibility and Building Relationships.

How do you feel when someone says something like “you drive too fast”, “everyone drives too fast”, or “you are always so sensitive”?  Do you feel a sense of separation from that person? Would you like an effective way to respond?

“I” Language

“I” language is a great way to take personal responsibility, authentically express yourself, and build better personal and professional relationships.  “I” language is ownership language. Another example of “I” language is “I appreciate you driving us to the movies and I feel a knot in my stomach due to the speed we are going” versus “You drive too fast.”   “I” language allows you to express yourself in a way that is honest and clear, minimizes hurting others, respects others, can help you achieve your goals, and can keep lines of communication open.

“If you wish to know the mind of a man, listen to his words.”  Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

“Words are also actions, and actions are a kind of words.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

“You/They” Language versus “I” Language Examples

Examples of “You/They” language: “you talk too much” or “people/they talk too much”.  “You/They” language, especially when emotions are present, is often confrontational and delivered in a way that presents something as fact when it is an opinion.  To me, “You/They” language often has separation energy which does not build relationships.

Examples of “I” language:  “I notice that I feel distant from you when I can’t verbally share how I feel”, or “I feel hampered in situations when people talk so much that I can’t share my thoughts”. Be careful with using words like always and never because they lock you into a position (that you then have a tendency to want to defend) and can give the appearance of conceit.

If someone uses “You/They” language, choose to respond with “I” language!

Setting intentions and checking in with yourself in terms of where you are coming from, especially in emotional situations, are very important skills.  You may want to read “I Hear You is the New I Love You”,“5 Tips on How to Listen Effectively”, “Forgiveness Series:  Observing Where You Are Coming From”, and “Intentions Series:  How to Create Powerful Intentions”.

photo credit: chrisinplymouth

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