Communication is the key to healthy relationships. Yet many people struggle to find effective ways to communicate because they’ve never been taught how. Teaching healthy communication skills is one way that Catholic Charities’ Family Preservation programs help parents create a safe and supportive environment for their children.
Seek Understanding and Solutions
When conflicts arise within families, it is important to tackle them in the moment so that they do not build up and lead to an escalation of negative emotions. In these situations, people often unintentionally blame or criticize others when they feel hurt or upset.
During a conflict, a good strategy to avoid blaming or criticizing is to use “I” statements. “I” statements are a way to take responsibility for one’s own feelings while still bringing attention to the problem at hand. Rather than making others feel blamed or attacked, “I” statements lead to understanding and solutions.
“I” statements should follow this simple format:
“I feel [specific emotion] when [explanation of the situation].”
Authentically Express Emotions
When bringing up a concern in any relationship, start by expressing your emotions. “I feel” should always be immediately followed by a specific emotion, such as “worried,” “scared,” “exhausted,” etc.
Give an Objective Explanation
After expressing your emotions, provide an explanation as to why you are experiencing this feeling. The more objective the explanation is, the better you will be able to communicate a concern without blaming or criticizing.
"I” Statements in Action
The following are some examples of statements that blame or criticize and how they can be changed into effective “I” statements:
- Blaming: “You can’t keep coming home so late! It’s so inconsiderate.”
“I” statement: “I feel worried when you come home late. I can’t even sleep.”
- Blaming: “You never call me. I guess we just won’t talk anymore.”
“I” statement: “I feel hurt when you go so long without calling. I’m afraid you don’t even care.”
- Blaming: “You left the lights in the kitchen on again. Stop being lazy.”
“I” statement: “I feel frustrated when I see the lights are left on. I’m worried about the electricity bill.”
Make “I” Statements a Habit
“I” statements work to help the speaker minimize defensiveness and instead focus on the solutions to any given problem. With some practice, “I” statements can become second nature and lead to a reduction in arguments and escalating conflicts.
When you take the time to prioritize healthy communication in the household, it will lead to a strengthening of familial bonds. To get started, simply write down some examples of statements that apply to your own life. This will help you prepare for future interactions and explore current conflicts.
Sabrina Spencer is a Nurturing Parenting Practitioner with Catholic Charities’ Family Preservation program, sometimes referred to as In Home Services. Sabrina earned a bachelor’s degree in Social Work at Northern Arizona University. Working in Family Preservation, Sabrina has a passion for strengthening family bonds through education and has been with Catholic Charities since 2020.
When not working, Sabrina continues her passion for social services by volunteering with foster youth. Sabrina also enjoys attending music festivals, reading books, and cuddling with her two cats, Frida and Georgia.