A Case Against Using “I” Statements

“You cancelled on me 4 times. I mean, I felt frustrated when our plans kept changing.”

Keri Savoca
7 min readJan 7, 2019


“I feel sad when I have to sleep alone at night.” “Oh — I’m sorry you feel sad.” by rawpixel on Unsplash

“I” statements. Not “you” statements.

That’s the advice, nowadays: Don’t be too confrontational by saying “You didn’t do [x].” Don’t accuse the other person of doing something wrong by saying “You did [x] again.” Make the conversation about how you feel, not about what your partner did.

Honestly, I don’t buy it. And here’s why.

It’s not about how you feel — it’s about why you feel that way. And you feel that way because of something the other person did. Period.

Otherwise, you wouldn’t be having this conversation with your partner; you would be writing it in your diary.

“I” statements imply that the “problem” is that you feel sad, not that your partner actually did something.

“I” statements are fine for initiating a conversation with someone who is likely to be defensive (though there are better strategies for this type of situation; more later). I understand saying “I feel really hurt about something and I’d like to find time to talk,” but then it’s time to discuss the actual issue. About what the other person did.

And guess what? You can still do it in a civil manner.

The issue is not how you feel. The issue is why you feel that way.

Having an entire discussion full of “I” statements means avoiding the issue at hand (i.e. you believe the other person messed up) and avoiding a potentially uncomfortable conversation so that you can seek comfort and reassurance. But most of the time, the person on the receiving end doesn’t understand the severity of your feelings, nor that they are either partially or entirely responsible for your state of discontent.

Basically, using “I” statements is a great way to avoid the discomfort of giving and receiving feedback.

Imagine if your boss called you in for a check-in and said, “I feel worried because the deadline is approaching quickly and there is…



Keri Savoca

Engineering Manager at Compass