By Beth Boynton
“I-Statements” can be time-consuming and emotionally challenging. We have to check in with ourselves about how we feel and why. We also have to be willing to have ownership about our part in a conflict and possible solutions.
Are they too wishy washy for us in healthcare? Do they take too much time? Don’t we need to focus on the next urgent issue and not tip toe around people’s feelings.
The answer is sometimes yes and sometimes no!
Communication-related or ‘soft’ skills are essential for best outcomes in healthcare and sometimes require more time than we have or think we have. Here is an example and checklist you can use to determine when an “I-Statement” makes the most sense.
Three nurses are at the nurses’ station. Two are talking about the new policy on discharge planning. The third nurse, Donna, is documenting a new order she just received on one of her patients. Donna is finding it difficult to concentrate and the order involves setting up a Patient Controlled Anesthesia pump w/ complex medication orders. Here are two possible approaches Donna could take:
A) “Shhhhh, stop talking so loudly!”
B) “I’m frustrated with your loud conversation. It is hard for me to concentrate on writing these orders correctly. I’d appreciate it if you would lower your voices or find another place to have your conversation.”
Which do you think she should take?
The Answer: It depends on what the relationships are and what Donna would like them to be!
For instance, if Donna has a positive history of working with these two colleagues, and they have established a pattern of mutual respect and collaboration, then they are likely to take a quick “Shhhhh”, apologize, lower their voices, and move on. They may also discuss other options such as a quiet place for Donna to go.
If, on the other hand, Donna doesn’t know these two nurses, or there is tension in their relationship and Donna would like to help all involved get to a more collaborative place, then Donna would be wise to use an “I” Statement.
“I-Statements” can be very effective in many conflicts because they show ownership and respect for other perspectives. Problem solving involves all stakeholders and commitment to outcomes is inherently increased with a collaborative process.
Since communication and collaboration issues are persistently showing up as root cause factors in safety statistics, doesn’t it make sense to incorporate communication strategies that will build positive relationships at times?
Try using this “I- Statement” checklist with your next conflict to determine whether you should take the time and energy involved to use an one. The more more checks, the more valuable an “I-Statement will be.
“I” Statement Checklist
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