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In order to dig deep in DEI work and change your workplace for the long-term, communication is key. But isn’t just beating around the bush, or sweeping it under the rug enough? Who wants drama in the workplace, really?

But that’s just it: you can work through issues constructively – zero rug-sweeping or drama-stirring!

Here’s a great strategy to get one of these tough, but constructive conversations started.

Take this scenario: You are in a meeting and Andre has just interrupted you. This is the third time this week. Instead of saying something rude, or bottling up your frustration you decide to have a constructive conversation. But how?

In the moment, you may be bogged down by personal feelings instead of strategizing the communication approach. Here’s a simple tool to add to the toolbox: the “I Statement.”

Consider the two examples below:

“Andre, you were very rude today when you interrupted me.”

“Andre, I feel disregarded when you interrupt me in a meeting because we are a part of a team and when we cannot all share our ideas, it’s harder to find the best solution.”

Let’s look at the first statement:

To start, you are pointing to a specific moment in the past. I’m not addressing the issue in the moment, you’re speaking from a place of pent-up frustration.

Secondly, you’re blaming Andre without explaining how the action affected you.

Lastly, you avoid explaining the impact of Andre’s actions on the work as a whole. By not explicitly addressing the impact Andre’s actions have on the work, on the dynamic within the space, the connection between the personal and the work environment isn’t named.

But with the second statement, with an adjustment of the structure, along with adding in the impact, you can construct an authentic response that bridges the personal and professional effects without pent up aggression or blame.

To use “I Statements,” follow this simple format:

I feel _____ (clearly identify the feeling behind it for you)

when you _____ (describe the specific behavior of the other)

because _____ (impact on the relationship or organization)

Through this format, you can:

  • address the action in the moment, without pointing fingers
  • express an authentic feeling
  • connect the action and feeling to its impact, intended or not, on the team or the task at hand.


So next time you are ready to tip-toe around a tough conversation, remember the power of constructive conversations and try out the “I Statement!”



This blog was adapted from Principal Amy S. Tolbert’s updated book Reversing the Ostrich Approach to Diversity: Pulling Your Head out of the Sand: Five Simple Concepts You Can Use Now to Reap Bottom-Line Results by Honoring Diversity available on Amazon today!



Tolbert, A. S., et al. Reversing the Ostrich Approach to Diversity: Pulling Your Head out of the Sand: Five Simple Concepts You Can Use Now to Reap Bottom-Line Results by Honoring Diversity. Amazon, Kindle Edition, 2019.