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How to Solve a Common Communication Break-Down

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Without starting a fight!



February 12, 2023

Do you ever wonder how a fight with your partner or best friend started?

You began a conversation with good intentions. You wanted to let them know how you felt about something they said or did.

But before you knew it, that train jumped the tracks, and you were both hurling insults that ended in a train wreck!

I want to give you a new way to address a concern that will give you a better outcome the next time you give someone feedback about your feelings.

Don’t do what comes naturally.

Don’t Use this Familiar Therapeutic Suggestion

When you did or said __________,

I felt ____________,

And next time I want you to ____________.

Sound familiar?

The problem with that communication is that it will never work in your favor.

Good luck getting somebody to do what you’re asking after blaming them for your reaction.

The moment you say, “When you did blah blah blah, I felt blah blah blah, you have just  made them responsible for your feelings. I don’t know about you, but I don’t respond well to being blamed for someone else’s feelings, especially when I believe my intentions weren’t evil.

Although I’ve often believed I am a mind-reader, ferreting out someone else’s intentions, I’ve been proven wrong over and over. That’s because our intentions are generally way more complicated than we like to think.

So, what to do instead? How can we give someone feedback so that they won’t take offense? How do we communicate our feelings without blaming them?

Eliminate Three Words

In “Communicate Your Feelings Without Starting a Fight,” Nic Saluppo recommends a tiny change:

Instead of saying “You make me feel…” say “I feel…”

It sounds ridiculously simple. But here’s the thing. When you stop blaming someone else for how you feel, and take ownership for what you’re feeling, you make it possible to have a conversation without starting a fight.

And you also take back control of your emotional life.

Never again will someone have the power to determine how you feel.

Certainly, other people influence us and vice versa. But no one can make me throw a dish against a wall because they made me feel angry. That’s on me.

I bet you’ve heard something like this from someone, sometime. “I behaved so badly because you made me feel angry/sad/rejected”–pick a word.

Maybe you remember saying something similar yourself? I know I have! Before I finally figured out that it got me nowhere except further away from the person I wanted to feel close to, and the person I wanted to understand me.

At that time, I said what I said because I still didn’t understand that I’m 100% responsible for managing my emotions.

But is that all there is to it? Just switch from ‘you made me feel…” to “I feel…?”

Nope, there’s another step and a question to add to the equation.

Don’t Confuse Thoughts with Feelings

When I say, “When you did so and so, you made me feel so and so”, I am skipping over the reality that you didn’t make me feel anything.

Your behavior doesn’t control how I feel. What does run the show is my thoughts about what you said or did.

Let’s go back to the original example:

When you did or said __________,

I felt ____________,

And next time I want you to ____________.

Now we’re going to add one step and a question:


  1. When you rolled your eyes at what I said
  2. I had the thought that you think I’m an idiot. I don’t know if that’s true, it’s just the thought I had when I saw you roll your eyes.
  3. I felt defensive and kind of stupid.
  4. Is that what you were thinking when you rolled your eyes?


Can you see the difference?

First you separate someone’s behavior from the thought you had about it, and then you clarify the accuracy of your thought.

To Sum Things Up

. Take responsibility for your feelings by shifting from ‘you made me feel,’ to ‘I feel.’

. Distinguish between someone else’s behavior and your thoughts and assumptions about their behavior.

. Ask if your thoughts about the intention for their behavior are accurate.

Finally, I’ll end with a truism you’ve probably heard lots of times. It’s a truism because it represents a basic universal, existential truth.

Other people’s behavior is information about them. My reaction is information about me.

When I understood the significance of that idea, my life changed. I stopped giving away my power to others and became the person in charge of me.

Sometimes I forget. But not for long.

I’d love to hear your thoughts. Please share your reactions.


Much love,



  1. Richard says:

    My wife and I have been working on communication for 51-1/2 years. We have found the following effective, as it defuses our defensiveness mode and opens our hearts” “I could be wrong, and you could be right.”

    • Robyn says:

      That’s a long time!!!! Great tip–‘you may be right’ and ‘that may be true,’ are lifesavers!!!!!! And the truth is, they may be right!

  2. Bill Adams says:

    Robyn continues to express thoughtful and real-world examples of coping and self improvement practices in ways that many people who are not trained in psychology can use daily. It is a true gift to all of us.

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