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  • Tracy Hooper

Confidence with "I Statements"

As we head back into the world and the workplace, and meet with our teams, clients and others, it’s more important than ever to know our boundaries and tell people. One of the most effective ways to say what you want or what you’re comfortable with, is to use, “I statements.”

In early March of this year, 2021, I scheduled a meeting at my house to work on a project for about 45-minutes with someone who I know. I moved the living room chairs at least 10-feet apart and opened the windows. The doorbell rang. I put on my mask, opened the door and there she was, maskless.

I must have looked surprised because she said, “Oh, don’t worry. I’ve been vaccinated. It’s all good.”

I immediately thought, “What does the CDC say? Does that mean she can’t give COVID to me? Or if I have it, but I’m asymptomatic, I can’t give it to her? Quick, you gotta decide. Should I cancel the meeting? Postpone? Should we meet OUTSIDE?”

You know what I did? I caved. I took off my mask and said, “Congratulations. I’m thrilled for you. Come on in.” As we walked into the living room and sat in our socially distanced chairs, I thought, “I have decision fatigue.” And I could have alleviated my discomfort if I had used my “I statements.”

I wish I’d said, “Congratulations, I’m happy for you. But Henry and I are not fully vaccinated yet, and we want to be safe, so I’d prefer if we’d both wear masks.”

“Oh, I didn’t bring one.”

“No problem. I have an extra disposable one in the kitchen. I’ll be right back.”

When you use “I statements”, no one can feel defensive. Because you’re expressing what you want, what your boundaries are.

Here are some other “I statement” suggestions as you run into people or meet back at the office.

  • “Hi, it’s been ages. How about a hug or handshake?

    • Put your right hand over your heart and say, “It’s great to see you. You know, I’m not ready to shake hands yet, but I’m glad we finally get to see each other in person. How are you? Don’t dwell. Simply get the conversation started.

Here’s another.

  • “Good to meet you. I’m following our company guidance and not shaking hands right now. But isn’t it refreshing to see each other in-person? It’s almost normal! How’s your business?”

If someone says,

  • “I am so over masks.” Say, “Me too, but I’m still wearing one to keep us both safe.

  • You can also say, “I’d prefer if we meet by Zoom instead of in person. I hope you understand.”

  • Or, “I’m still following the CDC guidelines to avoid large group meetings, so I’ve decided to attend the conference virtually.” Or, “so, I won’t be able to come to your event. Thanks for inviting me.”

  • Heading into a 4-person, COVID capacity elevator, say this, “After you.” or “May I go ahead please? I have a meeting that starts in a few minutes. Thanks very much.”

These are small requests or statements but knowing your boundaries and telling people what you want, shows confidence and it also shows respect for everyone’s health and safety.

One final thought. For the time being, until most people are vaccinated and COVID is truly under control, if you go to someone’s office or home or a business meeting, wear a mask. It’s a small, thoughtful gesture, so that person isn’t caught off guard like I was, trying to be polite and having to make a quick decision. . . to keep us both safe.

Meantime, for the next 30-days, practice those “I statements!”

Thanks for reading.

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