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Advanced Use of “I” Statements

Communicate with I messages

Agree, Ask to Understand, Ask to Help

Great, you have learned to use “I” statements.

  • Now how do you handle the typical response of challenging what you finished with?
  • Let us learn that now. First, let us review some of the main points of “I” statements.
  • The basic format to memorize is: I feel … when you do … because I think it means ….
  • After the “I feel” you put in a single feeling word such as: sad, mad, glad, ashamed, hurt, angry, annoyed, frustrated, discouraged, disappointed, etc.
  • After the “when you do” you put in the behavior you want them to stop or do less, for example: leaving your dirty dishes in the sink, leaving your dirty clothes on the floor, not cleaning up after yourself, etc.
  • After the “because I think it means” you put your interpretation of what they did. It is crucial that you own it as your interpretation and not as fact.

Some examples are: you didn’t care, you don’t respect me, you don’t love me, you don’t honor me, you don’t like me, etc. It is important that you do not just state another behavior of theirs at this point, but, instead, limit yourself to interpreting their behavior you mentioned after the “when you do” phrase.


  • You used the format: I feel ____ when ____ because ____.
  • And they challenged your interpretation of their behavior.

Actual Example:

I feel hurt when you do not call to tell me you are coming home late, because I think it means you don’t care about my feelings.”

Actual Response:

“But I do care about your feelings. How can you say that!? What’s the big deal, I was only a few minutes late. I would have been even later if I had stopped to call! You are being unreasonable!”


“Yes, you are right. I do know that you care about my feelings. What I want you to understand is the way my mind works. When you are late, I first start to worry about you and then I start to think you don’t care enough to call. So could you please help me to think you care about me by calling when you are going to be even a few minutes late?”

  • This solution is not guaranteed, however, it will raise the odds greatly in your favor for getting what you want.
  • The general format is:
  1. Agree that they do whatever you are interpreting at the “because” that they do not do. This encourages and reinforces what you want and in itself is a great intervention or strategy.
  2. Ask them to understand your mind, your thinking processes, your way of interpreting events.
  3. Ask them to help you to think well of them by not doing what you use to think poorly of them.

Related Pages

Book cover for Games Ego Plays

Quotations from Various Sources

Organized Alphabetically

“Among my most prized possessions are words that I have never spoken.” —Orson Card 

“Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.” —Dr. Seuss 

“But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation;” —I Peter 1:15 

“Don’t speak unless you can improve on the silence.” —Spanish proverb 

“Draw me not away with the wicked, and with the workers of iniquity, which speak peace to their neighbours, but mischief is in their hearts.” —Psalms 28:3 

“Foolishness always results when the tongue outraces the brain.” —Unknown 

“Most conversations are simply monologues delivered in the presence of a witness.” —Margaret Millar 

“Pleasant words are as an honeycomb, sweet to the soul, and health to the bones.” —Proverbs 16:24 

“Some man holdeth his tongue, because he hath not to answer: and some keepeth silence, knowing his time.” —Ecclesiasticus 20:6 

“The first duty of love is to listen.” —Paul Tillich, 1886-1965 

“The most precious things in speech are pauses.” —Ralph Richardson 

“There are very few people who don’t become more interesting when they stop talking.” —Mary Lowry 

“Treat a man as he is, and he will remain as he is. Treat a man as he could be, and he will become what he should be.” —Ralph Waldo Emerson 

“Two monologues do not make a dialogue.” —Jeff Daly