The Most Helpful Sentence I’ve Ever Learned

I try my best to develop solid relationships grounded in faith, trust, respect, and love. I’m not perfect at it by any means.

Developing these relationships is the most important thing I can do in my ministry and my life. Along the way, I’ve discovered that building deep and lasting bonds with others comes with some trying times, difficult conversations, and a little bit a of conflict.

Because of that, I’ve needed to make sure I listen more than I talk and to not jump to conclusions. I’ve also learned the need to word my sentences carefully so that I can accurately state what I am thinking and feeling. That can be difficult to do when the emotions are running on high.

In those times of conflict, there has been one sentence that has helped me time and time again to communicate clearly. What’s that sentence?

It’s called the “I feel” statement. Here’s how it works. It’s like a fill-in-the-blank type of sentence.

I feel (emotion, feeling) when (name the behavior that causes you to feel that way) because (state the consequence of the behavior).

Some examples:

  • I feel hurt when you criticize me in public because it embarrasses me and makes me look bad in front of others.
  • I feel sad when you don’t affirm me for the work I do at the church because it makes me think I’m not important to the ministry.

Here’s why “I feel” statements work:

  1. It starts with the word, “I.” You are taking ownership of your feelings. When you start with the word “you,” the other person automatically becomes defensive stops listening to you.
  2. You are naming the specific behavior. There have been times that I have made people angry or upset but never knew why. I’m someone who likes to reconcile things if I’ve done something wrong, but I can only do that when I know what I did to cause the conflict situation. Naming the behavior lets the person you are communicating with know exactly what the action was that caused the feeling.
  3. You clearly state the consequence of the behavior. This is important to name because, often times, the other person does not recognize why their behavior made you feel a certain why. Being specific about the consequences of the behavior allows the other person to understand that, at least from your perspective, the behavior was inappropriate.

By the way, never use the statements, “You always,” or “You never.” Those statements are rarely true and immediately make people defensive and shuts down communication.

Try using the “I feel” statement next time you are in a conflict situation. I think you’ll find it to be very effective.

Question: Are there other sentences that have helped you through a conflict situation?

John Rinaldo

As the Business Manager at St. Catherine Catholic Church in Morgan Hill, CA, Dr. John Rinaldo serves as the administrator over operations and finances for the parish in support of all parish ministries. Previously, John served as the Director of Youth and Young Adult Ministry for the Diocese of San Jose, empowering parish communities to minister to the needs of youth and young adults. John is also an adjunct professor at Santa Clara University teaching pastoral ministry courses to graduate students.


John Rinaldo


As the Business Manager at St. Catherine Catholic Church in Morgan Hill, CA, Dr. John Rinaldo serves as the administrator over operations and finances for the parish in support of all parish ministries. Previously, John served as the Director of Youth and Young Adult Ministry for the Diocese of San Jose, empowering parish communities to minister to the needs of youth and young adults. John is also an adjunct professor at Santa Clara University teaching pastoral ministry courses to graduate students.



Questions or Comments?

Join the conversation about The Most Helpful Sentence I’ve Ever Learned over in our Facebook group. GO THERE NOW