Asking someone to change their behavior is tricky, to say the least. You want to say the right things to encourage compliance while avoiding giving offense.
Using an ‘I Statement’ can help you articulate your needs in a neutral, non-threatening way. Your request is made in a manner that allows the other person to hear it well and act upon it.
The best part is that I Statements enable you to become accountable for your own emotions and thoughts in a way that builds a stronger, more open relationship with colleagues and customers.
What’s an I Statement?
An I Statement is really just a framework or script used for conveying information. If you’ve ever done a role-play or read a script you’ll be able to use I Statements. They work because they invite the other person to join you in resolving the issue. You’re not just imposing your will upon him or her.
What’s the Formula??
I Statement formula is a string of specific clauses:
- state what happened
- how it impacted you (feelings and consequence)
- your desired new behavior
- the motivator
- the consequence
Imagine your client asks you to create a series of social media content for her and you happily agree. Before you can create the content you need her to give you the topics she wants covered and help you get a sense of ‘her voice’. She says yes, but procrastinates. You get the content right before it needs to be posted for the week. You were able to pitch in the first week, but you don’t want this to be a weekly occurrence.
Here’s how you can use an I-statement to calmly tell your client what you observed, what you expect and what happens if there’s no change:
Hey Cheryl, can I talk to you about something that will improve the work?
I noticed that I got the materials very close to the posting deadline, which was frustrating because I didn’t have time to really capture your voice and while the work was good, it wasn’t the best I can do for you.
Next time, I need your materials no later than xxx. Will that work for you? Otherwise, you won’t be able to achieve your marketing goals.
Or, you could say, “Don’t miss another deadline!”
Which do you think would be more effective?
Key Points for Success with I-Statements
1. Be direct.
I Statements work best when you don’t beat around the bush. It’s confusing. Be very specific about the your observation and what change you’d like and the desired new result. Don’t leave the other person guessing about when and what.
2. Use the “F” word- Feelings.
Although it might not seem very professional, talking about your feelings can be very helpful if done in an appropriate way. Expressing your feelings will give you some relief from them and allow the other person to know what impact on you.
Go beyond the basics of happy, mad or sad, though. Try bemused or perplexed or others to capture the exact feeling. And, if you catch yourself throwing in ‘that’, as in, “I feel that…” you’re expressing a thought, not a feeling. Rephrase it to a feeling.
3. Be open to dialogue
Using the I Statement may open up a whole new conversation about how to get the best results for each of you. Be open and ready to generate other options to resolve the matter. Remember that the other person might not be as skilled as you. Be patient and explain what you’re trying to do—improve your work relationship and get successful outcomes!
Getting What You Want
I Statements are an invaluable tool for solopreneurs and service professional, really anyone who collaborates with clients to create a result. You’ll save time and frustrating by using this effective communication too. Try one today.
Dina Eisenberg, JD, Client Whisperer, trains small business and micro-business owners to build their emotional smarts and create easy systems to become powerful, generous, happy and profitable!