I Statements truly are “the bomb”. They are the epitome of communicating how we are feeling in a healthy format. They are also self-protective in that they are so clear and succinct that they cannot be turned around and used against us. I imagine most of us have experienced that at one time or another.

Be sure you have already read “Primary versus Secondary Emotions” before we move forward. When using I statements you need to have identified your primary emotions, as those are the ones that get plugged into the formula. It doesn’t do any good to say “I feel angry when you piss me off and I need you to cut that shit out!”.

Have you ever tried to express how you are feeling only to find yourself embroiled in a you said – they said argument where fingers are pointed, accusations are hurled, feelings get tossed to the curb and no one is listening to the other person much less giving a damn about how they feel? At that point it simply becomes an interaction that you want to “win” at all costs. And often the costs are pretty high.


Try this formula instead:

I feel _________________ (fill in with the primary/vulnerable emotions you have identified after you worked through your anger)

When you _____________ (describe in detail what the other person has done or said that triggered your primary/vulnerable emotions)

Because _______________ (explain to the other person why what they did or said pushed your buttons/hurt you)

And I need _____________ (describe what you want or need to be different moving forward)


Here’s an example:

I feel disrespected and rejected when you turn on the television in the middle of my telling you about my day. This is because my father did that to my mother every evening when he got home from work and I could see how much it hurt her. It drove a wedge between them and I was really angry with him for hurting her. I vowed I would never allow my marriage to be a repeat of theirs. I need your undivided attention for at least a few minutes when we get home so we can share our day with each other and reconnect. It’s really important to me.

Your partner may be immediately sensitive and tuned in to how you feel and this approach may elicit a change in behavior right off the bat. If not, then it may mean there are issues at play with them as well and more intensive communication may be required. Encourage them to respond using the same formula.

You might get this back:

I feel stressed and pressured when you want to talk the moment we both get home from work. This is because I have usually had a very stressful day at work with lots of people demanding my attention. I get pulled in ten different directions at once all day long and never have a moment to myself. I need to just sit and veg for awhile when I get home before I feel up to talking about anything.

Ahhh, now you know that it is not intended to be disrespectful or rejecting of you personally. It’s that your partner has nothing left to give when they get home. This exchange gives both of you the information needed to negotiate a compromise that gets both person’s needs met.

Keep using the formula until you both feel heard, understood and know what to do to meet your own needs and those of your partner.