I statements or a "gentle start up"

This is my favorite antidote of Gottman's Four Horseman. You may here my reminder in session to "soften that start up for me" or "can you rephrase that using an I statement for your partner?".

What is an I statement?

You have something you want to bring up to your partner (or anyone really!) and you want to say it in a way that they won't feel criticized or get defensive. You'll have to phrase without using any blame or attacks.

A critical example would be

"Seriously? You never do the dishes when I ask you to."

A gentle start up would be

"I'm feeling overwhelmed by the pile of dishes, would you be able to get them done before I finish cooking?"

Can you hear the difference? Say it out loud to yourself and imagine your reaction. The second one feels a lot safer to respond to. There is no blame, criticism or judgement.

Here's the formula to a perfect I statement:

  • Start with "I feel _________" (This takes responsibility for your own feelings.)

  • Describe why without using "you" (To avoid them feeling blames and in turn getting defensive.)

  • Ask for a positive need "Can you do this?" instead of "Don't do that anymore".

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