Do you struggle with speaking the truth in love in your relationships? If you answered yes, this biblical truth and tip will help you by showing you how to use "I statements" to minimize defensiveness. When sharing your truth, your approach matters. You can share your truth in a way that guarantees a defensive or angry response. When you accuse or attack, the person will react defensively. We all want to defend ourselves; it comes naturally-even Adam and Eve defended themselves when God confronted them about eating the forbidden fruit.
Saying your truth in a way that accuses or attacks the other person causes defensiveness and decreases the chance that you will be heard. Instead, share your truths in a way that focuses on yourself. Use "I statements" and claim the problem for yourself. Here are some examples:
Instead of "I am sick of your laziness. Get out;" say, "I am not okay with you not working and living here."
Instead of "You are a good for nothing man. I wish I'd never married you;" say, "I am not able to live with alcohol/drugs/pornography use, etc. It is too painful for me. I just can't do it."
Instead of "You are a mean jerk;" say, "I get scared when you are angry. It is uncomfortable for me."
Instead of "You are the biggest idiot around. How dare you treat me that way!;" say, "I don't feel good about allowing myself to be treated this way by you."
Instead of "You are a horrible Dad. How dare you do that to our son;" say, "I was uncomfortable with how you treated our son."
Instead of "You're a jerk like your Dad;" say, "I can't deal with the anger. When you yell at me, I am going to end the conversation until it isn't so intense."
It doesn't mean you can't ever tell someone the truth about them by focusing on their behavior, but name calling, demeaning, accusing, and attacking are generally counter-productive. Remember that "a gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger" (Proverbs 15:1, NIV) and "a hot-tempered man stirs up dissension, but a patient man calms a quarrel" (Proverbs 15:18, NIV). It is much harder to react defensively when you share your own observations, feelings, and reactions. The person can't win by telling you your feelings are wrong. It is harder to argue with your feelings than your accusations. There are people who will argue with you no matter what and those that are so defensive that there isn't any way you can approach them that they won't react, but for those people who are willing to listen, your approach matters.
Next time you are speaking your truth in love, remember to use "I statements" to decrease defensiveness.
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Karla Downing is an author, speaker, licensed marriage and family therapist, and Bible study teacher. Karla's passion is to help people find freedom in Christ in the midst of their difficult relationships and circumstances through Biblical truths and practical tools.