Relationships can naturally lead to confrontation. It’s easy to get entangled in your feelings and leave out the facts of the situation. It’s also easy to be a die-hard for facts and ignore the feelings of others entirely with a thoughtless delivery. Interestingly, Jesus was about the truth as well as the delivery of the content. He also cared about feelings, to the extent it brought us back to the truth.
2 Timothy 2: 24-25 A servant of the Lord must not quarrel but must be kind to everyone, be able to teach, and be patient with difficult people. Gently instruct those who oppose the truth. Perhaps God will change those people’s hearts, and they will learn the truth.
If we are Christians, we are servants of the Lord called to kindness. But how do we engage in kind confrontation involving current or past grievances? In the heat of a battle with a friend or family member, the best advice is to pause until cooler heads prevail. However, a pause does not necessarily mean a problem solved. Instead, a pause enables your physical responses to settle, like the hormones coursing through your body, which allows the brain to be more open for rational discussion. Walking away from drama has its place in the problem solving piece. But afterwards, what can be done to begin relationship repair? Enter the “I” statement:
I feel…. When you…. Because…. Next time…..
“I” statement flip booklets were made by 3rd – 5th graders as a way to practice meaningful, orderly ways to start conversations. Each grade level was challenged with hypothetical problems using this skeletal outline to better elaborate grievances. For example, one sibling talking to another sibling might sound like:
I feel really frustrated when you run into my room and knock over my Legos because I have worked hard on my project. It keeps me from studying my spelling words when you run around my room. I’m afraid I won’t be ready for the test. Next time, could you please ask first?
Emphasis on the “because”highlights the reason for feeling so strongly about the problem. This gives important insight as to why the behavior was perceived as harmful or insensitive. The next time your student has a conflict, consider encouraging the framework of “I” statements to get meaningful conversation started to help merge facts and feelings.