“I” Language Series: Responsibility and Building Relationships

by Jo-Ann Downey on October 31, 2012

in Relationship Communication Skills

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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?


Do you believe that you are powerless in your life or do you believe you are responsible for creating/ co-creating your life?  The powerless approach involves victim energy, not taking responsibility for yourself, and negative energy – not pathways to success.  Owning and being responsible for your thoughts, feelings, and actions (or non-actions, which are also actions) is empowering.

“In the long run, we shape our lives, and we shape ourselves. The process never ends until we die. And the choices we make are ultimately our own responsibility.”  Eleanor Roosevelt

“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 and can make you think twice.  Sort of like when you sign a legal contract, you stop and think twice. Your word is your contract and your world.

An 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”.   “I” language allows you to express yourself in a way that is honest and clear, minimizes hurting 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”.

Very Smart Girls use “I” language.

I’m interested in your thoughts- comments welcome. The name you type in the comment section (for example, Jo-Ann, Jo-Ann Downey or Jo-Ann from Boston) will appear on the site. Your email address will NOT appear. If you provide a website URL (for example, your business or your blog URL), it will be linked to your name so others can learn more about you.

photo credit: chrisinplymouth

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