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  • Steven Sutton, LCSW

I think. I feel. I want. Part #2

Increase the quality of the conversation by revealing yourself first. This is part of showing leadership in relationship — being willing to take the first risk. Use the simple formula: I think, I feel, I want. Start by saying what is on your mind and talk about yourself. Tell the other person about your thoughts, concerns, or arguments. Then tell them what you feel. The temptation when you do this may be to restate what you think while just beginning the sentence with, “I feel.” Don’t do that. Instead, pay attention to yourself to ascertain how you currently feel and share it with your partner. Lastly, tell your partner what you want. This too will require you to pay attention to yourself in the moment and you may find this is more difficult to do than it sounds. It’s worth it though as this way of speaking to your partner will reduce pressure in the conversation and help you be more open.

Here’s how it might sound:

“I can’t shake the idea that you’re irritated with me. I think we’re more distant than usual. Right now I feel anxious about bringing this up. I want to have a nice evening with you and connect.”

Here’s how it breaks down:

“I can’t shake the idea that you’re irritated with me. I think we’re more distant than usual.”

This is the “I think” part. It’s filled with ideas or arguments. It’s what’s on your mind and what you understand to be true for you.

"Right now I feel anxious about bringing this up.”

This is the “I feel” statement. Notice it’s describing how the speaker feels in that moment. Avoid the temptation to say, “I feel that we’re more distant than usual.” That’s not a feeling it’s a thought. It’s also a way to avoid revealing what’s really going on with you in the moment.

"I want to have a nice evening with you and connect.”

Here’s the final “I want” statement. Don’t be afraid to tell your partner what you want. Some of us fall into the trap of feeling shame about our preferences and desires. We sometimes tell ourselves that of our partner knew what we wanted then we defiantly won’t get it! The best way to connect with our partner and cultivate closeness is to show them who we are by telling them what we want. Notice that most of the things you want are positive, loving outcomes. What do you have to hide?

You’ll know you’re not doing this well if it sounds like this:

“I think you’re mad. I feel like you’re mad pretty often. I want you to stop being mad at me.”

Notice the feeling statement was actually a restated thought but just began with the words, “I feel like…” Notice also that what the speaker wants is stated in the negative, or is a statement not of what they want but what they don’t want. Negative statements are a dead end. Make it positive and you’ll get unstuck.

Notice all the statements are about the speaker, even when they’re making an observation about their partner. It’s vital to stay focused on yourself. Try it and see how it works.

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