Using I-Statements for Effective Conflict Resolution

One of the primary goals of effective conflict resolution is to de-escalate a situation that has potential to become tense and at an extreme, explosive. There are many ways to de-escalate conflict; however I-Statements are effective because they assist with expressing your feelings without placing blame and triggering defenses. One thing I love about teaching I- Statements is that once my clients become familiar with the template statement, most of our practice becomes focused on plugging in the emotion they are experiencing and the trigger the trigger of that emotion.

The template statement is as follows: I feel (emotion) when/because (trigger).

Here are some examples:

  • I feel sad when I can’t tell you how I feel.
  • I feel frustrated because I didn’t get the help I needed.
  • I feel lonely when I’m not invited.

Once comfortable with the initial statement, I recommend following up with a request that communicates to the other person how they can help avoid the trigger in the future. Taking this step will also support your ability to establish a necessary boundary in your relationship with that person.

The template statement then becomes: I feel (emotion) when/because (trigger). I would appreciate it if/it would be helpful if (how would you like them to behave differently).

Here are some examples:

  • I feel sad when I can’t tell you how I feel. It would be helpful if you allowed me to speak uninterrupted.
  • I feel frustrated because I didn’t get the help I needed. I would appreciate it if you help me the next time I ask for your assistance.
  • I feel annoyed when you are late. It would be helpful if you called to let me know that you need more time.

I recommend practicing this skill regularly in conversation as it will increase the chances of you using it when needed to resolve more serious conflict. I will follow up soon with some examples of how I-Statements can be used to effectively communicate that others are being heard and empathized with in response to expressions like the ones above.

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