Intention and impact begins with an “I” | See. Be. Do.

“I love you” lands a bit differently than “love you.”

The other day I was having a conversation with my eldest child via text. When we end our conversation(s), I always end my text or even a voice conversation with “love you, see you soon”. This time, I noticed something a little different. He responded with “I love you”.

It caught me by surprise. If you know my son, he is not the “show/share my feelings” type of person. And, as he continues to grow older and wiser, I see his approach to life shifting. For the better. He is even teaching me lessons and it warms this momma’s heart.

This conversation reminded me of the intention and impact of utilizing I-statements in even the simplest of phrases. “I love you” lands differently than “love you”. There is ownership and intention in saying “I love you” vs. “love you” and the outcome is a shift in the other person’s response. My perspective/perception shifts when there is intentionality behind the words that are used towards me.

Here are some common phrases where the utilization of “I” is intentional and impactful.

• I love you

• I missed you

• I am sorry

• I believe in you

• I see you

• I hear you

• I understand you

• I wish you the best

• I am thinking of you

Now, say those same phrases without the “I”. In some instances, removing “I” shifts accountability and ownership of the sentiment being shared. The context shifts. Shifting the context impacts the reaction and response. Two common things happen:

1. You choose to use an I-statement and the outcome is a conversation — at times a difficult and uncomfortable conversation, but even so, a conversation leads to better outcomes.

2. You choose not to use an I-statement and the reaction is immediate defensiveness. This leads to arguments, hurt, bitterness and severed relationships.

In much of today’s research you will see articles, studies, and columns on how important I-statements are in relationships. In a current world climate that has embraced pointing the finger at others and ignores the three digits that are pointing back at you; we need to return to the basics of intention and impact.

Francie Montemurro at the Office of the Boston University Ombuds says that, “an ‘I-statement’ focuses on your own feelings and experiences. It does not focus on your perspective of what the other person has done or failed to do.” I translate this to mean that when you are intentional about the impact of your approach, you take full accountability and begin with “I” and not “you”.

For example, “I felt sad when you said…”, verses, “you said this and it made me angry” The first approach sends a message of wanting to have a conversation about the impact; the second approach sends a message of blame and shame to the other person for the way they “made” you feel.

What approach do you find yourself using these days? Are you an I-statement kind of person? Or have you defaulted to the short text to save a millisecond?

I am writing this column not as a chastisement, rather as a reminder to myself to slow down and take the time to fully say “I love you” and “I am sorry”. I want to be accountable and own my mistakes in a way that represents who I am as a wife, mother, daughter, sister, educator, mentor, community member, and so much more. I am deciding to be intentional and am committed to creating impact that is long lasting for the advancement of my relationships.

The message I chose to carry is one of accountability, transparency, and grace for myself and for others. After all, I am human and I make mistakes. In this “bizarro” world I will be the first to admit when I make a mistake and say, I am sorry. I will also offer up a suggestion of actions I can change to minimize future mistakes.

That is the power of the I-statement in intention and impact.

Leann Blanco, "See. Be. Do."