We are learning that starting sentences with “I feel” instead of “you are” encourages connection and effective communication. We are finding that “I feel” invites, while “you are” indicts. 

For example, a sentence you will hear too often in our house is, “You are so mean!” Our children say this to each other when they feel hurt or frustrated or angry about how they have been treated. “You are so mean!” always elicits the response, “No I’m not!” followed by  accusations directed back at the person who said “You are so mean.” These interactions escalate quickly, causing additional hurt and leaving the children disconnected, as well as sad or angry.

It is easy to see the ineffectiveness of this when watching our children speak to each other this way, but we are learning that this small change in language affects adults and children alike. We are learning that replacing “you are” with “I feel” can benefit every relationship. 

When our children are in conflict, we have begun prompting them to say "I feel . . . ” instead of “You are . . . ” It is remarkable how quickly this de-escalates a conflict.

We, along with our children, are also learning to respond to “I feel . . . " with a pause and a question like, “Will you tell me more about that?” This type of response requires humility, kindness and patience, but we are learning that we all benefit from this response.

We encourage our children to respond this way, and we know it is important to set the example by responding this way too.

The next time you find yourself feeling emotion towards someone, try starting the conversation with, “I feel . . . " And the next time someone expresses their emotion to you, try responding with a pause and a question. 

These small changes have been revolutionary in our marriage, our family and our friendships. I hope you find they are for you too.