My nephew recently asked his 4-year-old daughter what she had learned that day in preschool. She told him, “I learned about a bug and a wish.” “What does that mean?” her daddy asked. “I don’t know how to tell you,” she replied. So the next time he picked his daughter up at school, he asked the teacher, and this is the gist of what she told him:
A bug and a wish is a way to express one’s feelings and desires to another person, in a way that is respectful of the other and of oneself. It is a way of owning one’s own feelings while asking for co-operation.
Here is the formula, with examples:
The Preschool Child
It bugs me when you take my toy, and I wish you would ask me to share instead.
The Parent (at home):
It bugs me when you leave toast crumbs on the counter after I have cleaned the kitchen, and I wish you would clean up after yourself.
A Colleague (at work):
It bugs me when you send me email jokes during the work day, and I wish you would take me off your email list, or wait until the weekend to send those to me.
In adult language, these are called “I-statements” (as opposed to critical “You-statemets”).
The formula for an I-Statement is:
I feel_________when you__________ and I’d really like you to__________.
I feel (this emotion ) when you (do this behavior) and I’d really like you to (action).
For example, I feel afraid when you don’t tell me you will be late coming home, and I’d really like you to phone to let me know your schedule.
At first, “I-statements” can seem formulaic or stilted, but like a Bug and a Wish, they work to say how you feel and what you want. I feel better when someone uses an I-statement to tell me what I do that bothers them, and I bet you will find you do, too.