One of the most difficult things for most people to do is to confront another person, requesting that they change their behavior. Arguments, yelling, and put-downs may ensue.

As you become assertive, you will become a master in using “I” statements in order to get your point across. You don’t accuse the other person, complain, or put the other person down.

You calmly explain how the other person’s behavior is harming you and talk about what you would like to see instead. The other person can’t argue with the fact of the harm done to you or your emotions because only you know this. Once you express yourself, the two of you can then discuss how to reach a win-win situation.

Confrontational “I” statements contain four steps: 1) what the other person has done that you would like to see changed, 2) how their behavior has caused you harm, 3) your negative emotions because of this situation, and 4) what you would like to see instead. You always include steps 1 and 4 as well as either steps 2 or 3 or both of them.

Step 1: Define the Specific Behavior

The first step usually begins with the word “when.” You tell another person the specific behavior that is causing the problem. Here are examples: “When you don’t call me when you will be late...” “When I see your clothes dropped all over your room...” and “When you interrupt me...”

It is important to state facts and not blame, evaluate or moralize. Do not swear or put the other person down. For example, do not begin your statement with “When you are thoughtless of others...” or “When you act mean and detestable...” If you blame the other person, you will be more likely to get an aggressive response rather than cooperation.

Step 2: State the Tangible Effect

The second step of a confrontational “I” statement occurs when you tell another person the tangible effect the behavior or problem has on you. You inform the other person of the harm to you that is caused by their behavior. “When you drop your clothes and leave your shoes around the house, I trip over them.” “When I’m interrupted, I don’t get to finish what I am saying.” “When you leave the porch light on all night, the electricity bill is higher.”

Step 3: Describe Your Feelings

The third step occurs when you describe your feelings that result from the tangible effect. “When you drop your clothes and leave your shoes around the house, I trip over them, and I’m afraid I’ll fall and get hurt.” “When I’m interrupted, I don’t get to finish what I am saying, and I am frustrated that I can’t say everything I want to.”

Step 4: Express What You Would Like Instead

The last step of this technique occurs when you state what you would like to see the other person do as a replacement. “I would like you to turn the porch light out when you come in the house.” “I would like to be quiet so I can finish my sentence before you begin to talk.” “I would like you to put your clothes and shoes in the bedroom when you come home at night.”

You may want to include more than one suggestion for changing the situation and let the other person choose one option. You also can point out any benefits to the other party with your suggestions. “In this way, we will be able to work together more productively because...”

Two More Points

Keep in mind two important points. First, make sure the request is at the end of the “I” statement. If you put it at the beginning before you’ve explained why you’re making the request, the other person may very well not hear a word you’re saying after the first sentence or phrase because they’re thinking only about how to respond to you.

Second, be careful not to say something like, “I think that you feel…” or “It seems to me that you think…” The other person knows how they think or feel better than anyone and, even if you’re correct, they can argue with you to distract the attention away from your request. And you’ll never win that argument. Instead, say only what your own thoughts and feelings are. Since they are yours and yours alone, no one can argue with you and win.

How to Deal with the Response

When you make confrontational “I” statements, sometimes the response is positive and immediate. The person does exactly what you have requested.

Other times, the other person may act surprised, shocked or defensive when you present your “I” statement. He or she may be unhappy to find out that you have a problem. On these occasions, listen to what the other person has to say.

There may be occasions when you will need to repeat the assertion more than one time. These are typical situations where more than one assertion may be necessary:

• Your “I” statement may not be clearly or accurately received.

• Your “I” statement may be clearly or accurately received and nothing happens.

• During the conversation, the other person diverts the topic to a side issue.

• During the conversation, you encounter objections.

Remember to keep calm and stick to the point at the same time respecting the rights of the other person. Be persistent. Keep saying what you want over and over again without getting angry, irritated or loud.

You can use different words to say what you want: “I would like you to put the towel in the clothes bin after you use it.” “It would work best for me if you put your towel in the clothes bin after you use it.” “Putting your towel in the clothes bin after you use it is what I prefer.” Use a calm, repetitive voice until the other person accedes to what you request or agrees to a compromise that both of you are happy with.

Author's Bio: 

Vivian Harte is the co-author of Self-Esteem for Dummies in the Dummies series. She has helped over 12,000 people learn and use assertiveness skills during the last 14 years. She teaches online classes on assertiveness, self-confidence, and teamwork. She has a Bachelors degree in Sociology and a Masters degree in Public Administration. She taught college classes for many years in Tucson, Arizona. She has two grown children who are both successful. She lives in Tucson with her husband, three dogs and two cats.

She offers kits with articles, guided visualizations, and songs as well as online courses, group coaching and 1-on-1 coaching, and you can find out more about these at her website, self-esteem-for-me.com. Discover how to be a stronger, more assertive person by downloading her free kit Develop Assertiveness for Strength!