The following suggestions help you create effective, non-threatening statements that demonstrate a positive, constructive attitude:
- Be specific: Saying ‘When you ignore me at parties, I feel marginalized’ is the pathway to doom. Instead, ‘I felt hurt last night when you left me on my own’ is specific, direct and communicates your feelings without pointing the finger of blame.
- Shun the ‘should’ and ‘ought’ words: When you criticize people by saying ‘You should do...’ or ‘You ought to...’ you’re concealing your own feelings about a situation and come across as self-righteous and bossy. Claim your own feelings by phrasing your statement along the lines of ‘I feel insecure when you...’. By speaking in that way you live in the moment with your feelings and express them without recrimination.
- Leave out the labels: When you call people ‘stupid’, ‘crazy’, ‘idiot’, ‘selfish’ and other derogatory remarks, you’re putting them into negative categories and demonstrating an unconstructive attitude. Instead, comment on your feelings about other people’s behavior, not the people themselves. Seek to understand what compels people to behave the way they do and don’t judge them for their actions.
- Avoid concealing negative You-statements under the guise of I-statements: When you say ‘I feel that you don’t care about me’ or ‘I feel like I don’t matter to you’ you’re disguising your true feelings about being scared, lonely, hurt or sad by using a veiled You-statement. It’s better to say ‘I feel unimportant’ or ‘I feel scared of being alone’, for example. Including ‘that you’ or ‘like you’ puts the onus onto the other person. Appreciating the power of your actions tells the negative impact of ‘You-statements’, whether they’re overtly expressed or disguised as ‘I feel...’ statements.
- Include your feelings: If you want to establish an emotional connection with people – as the best communicators do – you need to allow them to understand how their behavior influences your feelings. Camouflaging your emotions creates a false representation of the real you.