Skill Builder: Designing “I” Statements

Communicating with others about how they make us feel can be tricky.  But it’s important to build trust in order to work effectively together (and to enjoy each other’s company) so learning to use “I” statements, instead of “YOU” statements, can help smooth out difficult dialogs.

An “I” Statement Helps:

  • To express feelings and needs in an assertive, non-threatening manner.
  • To express important feelings and concerns without blame, especially when the task at hand has become difficult.

Here’s a Simple Formula for Designing an “I” Statement:

  • “I feel…” (State the emotion)
  • “when you…” (State the behavior – be SPECIFIC)
  • “because…” (State the effect the behavior is having on you in the moment)

TIPS: Avoid inflammatory words (“always,” “never,” “on purpose,” “why”) of judgment.

Compare the following examples and imagine what kind of response each statement might yield:



“You never listen to me.”


“I feel frustrated when I share information with you and you interrupt me because I really want to help.”



“Why don’t you like my ideas?”


“I feel like you don’t appreciate my suggestions when you brush them aside and go with someone else’s idea.”



“You always talk too long. Let someone else have a turn.”


“I think you have some good ideas but I feel like we should hear from some other folks who haven’t spoken yet.”    


In the above examples, it’s easy to imagine that the “you” statements will feel judgmental and likely to promote either a defensive response or even shut down communication altogether.  On the other hand, the “I” statements provide context that promotes understanding and the desire to keep lines of communication open.


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[Please note: content related to designing “I” statements is largely drawn from resources provided by Community Boards. To learn more about Community Boards, check out their website.]