How to Speak Up about Anything: The I-5

Asserting yourself may not come as naturally to you as it does to others. First, figure out specifically what's true for you about the situation you're stuck in, then express your truth kindly, and finally, listen with openness to the recipient's response.

I know, I know. You're saying it's not that simple to do, especially when emotions are maxed out, the topic is super-sensitive, and you're strung out beyond belief. The 1-5 gives you a reliable way to say what's true for you about any topic in a non-threatening way.

The I-5 Steps for Clear Non-Threatening Communication


Use These Words

1. Identify a specific event or topic.

 1. When this happened

2. Name your emotions and feelings.

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 2. I feel/felt

3. Give information about yourself: your needs, wants, vices, expectations, thoughts, values, past experiences.

 3. because I...

4. Define specific boundaries, intentions, requests, consequences, and solutions.

 4. and I...

5. Finish with some kindness.

 5. and I appreciate...

Let's go over each of the steps.

1.  When this happened...

Identify one specific situation or topic at a time. It's not "You're so inconsiderate," but "I was upset when you were forty-five minutes late yesterday."

2.  I feel/felt...

This part is about you! Talk about the feelings and emotions you experienced around the event. Sticking to sadness, anger, or fear, you'll stay focused on giving information about yourself, rather than resorting to accusing "you"s or indulging in inaccurate generalities. Be careful about "-ed" feeling words (for example: used, manipulated, neglected, unappreciated; betrayed, judged, etc.). Many are veiled "you"s, which make it hard for the other person to remain receptive.

3.  because I...

Give information about yourself. Explain why you feel the way you do. Giving details about your needs, wants, thoughts, and values lets someone know where you're coming from. Instead of saying, "I'm angry because you're always late and only think about yourself," say, "I feel angry because I said I had a three o'clock appointment, and I understood that you would be home by 2:45 to watch the kids. I hate to be late."

4.  and I...

This step clarifies your specific position on the topic: your requests, what you'd like to see happen in the future, what actions you're planning to take, and when, and what you'll do to take care of yourself. In this step, you're setting specific boundaries, intentions, requests, consequences, and solutions. Get detailed. The more detail, the better. Make sure that what you say is doable, suitable for the current situation, and within your control. If you don't follow through with what you say, you'll lose credibility and gain heartache.

5.  I appreciate...

Finish with kindness. A positive comment or appreciation sets the tone for the ensuing dialogue. "Thanks for listening," or "I'm glad we're talking about this." Make sure you mean what you say. (Lovingly say it more than once if the other party doesn't seem to hear you the first time.)

How to Speak Up about Anything: The I-5Familiar Situations for Practicing the I-5

Below are some familiar situations that call for an I-5 with some possible solutions. The information isn't in exact sequence, but they cover all the I-5 components in a way that promotes clear communication. The key is to use a warm and loving tone.

You finally return a friend's call two weeks later

When you called me a couple of weeks ago and asked for the name of my personal trainer, I freaked out because I didn't know what to say. I know I said I'd call him and see if he was taking new clients, but I realized I think of him as a confidant and felt uncomfortable with sharing him. If you're still looking for someone to work with, I'd be glad to ask him to recommend someone else. I'm sorry I took so long to get back to you. I value our relationship and enjoy the time when we get together.

Your boss asks you to take on a project at 5:15 p.m.

When you asked me to type those letters at 5:15, I felt really torn. I really want to help you with this project because I'm committed to my job, but I promised my son I would go to his ball game tonight because his dad is out of town. I'll be glad to type the letters first thing in the morning or if you need them today, I'll see if anyone else is available before I go. In the future, if you suspect there will be work for me after hours, I'd appreciate it if you'd let me know a day or two beforehand.

The bill from the mechanic is twice what you expected

I'm in shock! This morning, you told me that the bill was going to be about three hundred dollars, and it's six hundred and change. I'm on a tight budget and can't possibly pay you that much. I'm willing to pay four hundred, but that's tops. In the future, if the work is going to be more than your estimate, I need to okay it before you start work. I like coming here and love the excellent service you've always provided.

You don't want to take a class with your partner

When you asked me to take that cooking class with you, I started to panic. I love to please you, but I don't want to spend my Saturday indoors. I'd be happy to do an outdoor activity with you, or if you want to go with a friend, I'll look forward to hearing all the details when you return. I love that you like to learn new things, especially around food.

Practice, Practice, Practice

It may take practice, just like any new skills does. But over time, you'll be able to quickly identify what you really want to say and sound casual and non-confrontational when you say it. Your words may sound stilted to you at first, but you'll still find the benefits far outweigh any temporary discomfort.

Reprinted with permission of the author.
©2011 by Jude Bijou, M.A., M.F.T. All Rights Reserved.
Publisher: Riviera Press, Santa Barbara, CA 93101

Article Source:

Attitude Reconstruction: A Blueprint for Building a Better Life by Jude Bijou, M.A., M.F.T.Attitude Reconstruction: A Blueprint for Building a Better Life
by Jude Bijou, M.A., M.F.T.

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About the Author

Jude Bijou, M.A., M.F.T., author of: Attitude ReconstructionJude Bijou is a licensed marriage and family therapist (MFT), an educator in Santa Barbara, California and the author of Attitude Reconstruction: A Blueprint for Building a Better Life. In 1982, Jude launched a private psychotherapy practice and started working with individuals, couples, and groups. She also began teaching communication courses through Santa Barbara City College Adult Education. Word spread about the success of Attitude Reconstruction, and it wasn’t long before Jude became a sought-after workshop and seminar leader, teaching her approach to organizations and groups. Visit her website at

Watch an interview with Jude Bijou: How to Experience More Joy, Love and Peace