Communication. As Simple as “I” Statements?

We have all heard about using “I” statements and sticking to the topic at hand. These are definitely useful in learning to communicate, especially with your partner or in a conflict situation. But let’s take it a step further and put some tools into action that can make a more significant impact.

Actively Listen. Openness and presence begets openness and presence.

Get out of your own head. Stop thinking about what you will say next. Listen with the intention of understanding. We don’t typically resolve disagreements by taking a defensive stance and continuously re-stating our own rationale. It is human nature to want to feel heard, seen and understood. When you take the time to truly hear your partner, you will likely notice in them a new openness to hearing and understanding you too.

Be interchangeable with what you are hearing the other person say.

Being interchangeable means paraphrasing what the other person is saying. Forget the guesswork. You are simply stating back to them exactly what they are saying, though maybe in fewer words. This allows you to make sure you got it right and truly heard what they were saying. It also helps build connection and demonstrates to them that you are listening and are fully present. For example, “You went to work today, thinking it was a typical day, and ended up being laid off. You knew layoffs were coming, but the situation today left you in shock. And you‘re feeling really shaken.” Or, in a conflict situation, an example may be: “When I said _____, you felt disrespected.”

Listen for what is important to them. What is their belief or perception? What are the values that are you hearing them express in what they are saying? Identify the meaning in their message.

This sounds simpler than it is, so don’t get discouraged if it takes some practice. But if you put in the effort to really understand what is important to your partner, child, friend, or anyone else you are talking to, and are able to demonstrate your understanding to them, you may reach a whole new level of connection and find an openness in them you did not think existed. Start your sentence with, “This is important to you because…”

Validate the emotion associated with what they are saying.

For example, “When I shut down and turned away from you, you felt abandoned and rejected.”

Healthy and effective communication is an incredible skill that most of us were not taught growing up. And it only seems more difficult to learn the older we get and the more intense our emotions are in a situation where we are most desperate to use these skills. These skills can benefit us in every area of our lives and are possible to learn if you're interested and invested. 

Keep in mind, habits and patterns that have developed over the course of many years will not change overnight. But with commitment and practice, you will see positive outcomes.

Pause, notice and celebrate small successes. Everyday. This is key. 

Lisa Thomson is a Registered Psychologist and a Clinical Marriage and Family Therapist. She is the owner of Core Psychology in Calgary, AB and supports individuals, couples and families struggling with relationship challenges or feeling stuck and at a crossroads. To schedule an appointment go to

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A Mindfulness Practice to Manage Stress: Getting Grounded by Leo Babauta

The Grounded Challenge: Practice Mindfulness with Your Difficulties


Our lives are filled with difficulties, from frustration and stress to illness and loss, from uncertainty and doubt to fear and guilt … but while they can often be the source of wearing us down, they can also be a source of growth, transformation and beauty.

Most of us don’t think of our difficulties as a source of beauty, but what if we could be grounded in the middle of the difficulty, turn towards the struggle instead of away from it, and be fully present to it? What if we could learn to befriend it, even love it? What if we could find gratitude and joy in the midst of the pain?

This month, I offer you a challenge. It’s to practice mindfulness with all of your difficulties. I’m calling it the Grounded Challenge.

I’ll give you an example before sharing how the challenge works … I just got back from a 3-week trip around the world, and I’m suffering from really strong jet lag. This is easily something I could complain about, and let it become a huge problem. And sure, it is a problem … but it’s also a great practice opportunity.

Here’s how I’ve been practicing (and please note that this is only one way to practice):

I notice the tiredness, the stress about not sleeping well, the feeling of not wanting to do all the work that’s piled up, the wanting to shut down to everything. I mindfully drop into my body, noticing how it feels, noticing any tension, noticing the physical feelings of stress and resistance. I notice my stories about all of this, and thought patterns that have come up around this like everything else.

Then I stay with the physical feeling, becoming curious about it. I relax any tension, allowing myself to relax into the feeling, to be with it with gentleness, to open my mind to it, to accept the feeling as it is, without needing to get rid of it. I give the feeling compassion, some friendliness, some love. I see that this moment is beautiful, just as it is, including the stress and difficulty. I find gratitude for having the feeling, as it is a part of my beautiful life.

This kind of mindfulness practice isn’t meant to get rid of the problem, or dissolve the feeling. It can stay there, just as it is. The practice is to learn to be with it, to become grounded in my stress, to transform my relationship with my experience, even loving my experience as it is.

We can practice with any of our difficulties in this way. Join me in practicing this month.

Here’s how the Grounded Challenge works:

  1. Commit to doing this challenge every day for the rest of the month(no matter when you are starting). You can commit publicly, on Facebook or Twitter, or join me and more than a thousand others doing the challenge in my Sea Change Program.

  2. Practice. Try to remember to practice with any difficulties that come up — stress, frustration with someone else, disappointment with yourself. More below.

  3. Weekly check-in. Report on all of this weekly to whoever you committed to — if you’re in Sea Change, you can check-in with us.

So you try to remember to practice any time a difficulty comes up. That’s a pretty tall order, because they could come up at any time, and potentially all day long! Do we need to be perfect? Not at all. In fact, if you practice just once a day, you can consider that a success.

Just once a day, practice as I described above (or in other ways that you might find, or that I’ll share in the Sea Change Program).

We’ll add some additional ways to work with the difficulty, but starting here will be enough of a challenge. You can do this!

It’s worth the effort. Join us in Sea Change to get articles, weekly check-ins, and a live webinar on this challenge.