Relationship Minute: The thing about “I” statements

In the words of Certified Gottman Therapist Elizabeth Earnshaw in this Instagram post, “I statements are only helpful when they are truly about the self.”

We teach that the antidote to criticism is the Softened Start-Up, which starts with an “I statement.” But an “I statement” can also be twisted into criticism if you’re not careful:

“I feel like you’re a bad driver.”
“I’m mad because you’re so lazy.”
“I am always picking up after you.”

Evaluate your “I” statements. Are they really expressing your feeling or experience with a sense of ownership? Or are they casting an opinion or criticism on your partner? Instead of the critical statements above, try “I” statements that are actually about yourself.

“I get anxious in the car.”
“I like to feel busy.”
“I think I’m overwhelmed by the amount of housework I’m doing right now.” 

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The Relationship Minute is from The Gottman Institute. You can sign up here to get it delivered to your inbox every Tuesday and Thursday morning.