The XYZ statement has been used in both personal and business relationships as an effective way to present a potentially sensitive topic of discussion. It works like this: you say the theme or scenario (X), you follow it with the context in which the scenario takes place (Y), then you finish with how this makes you feel (Z). Let’s see some examples:
Here’s an ineffective way of posing a problem: “How come you never help with the dishes? We both work all day, you know!”
Here is the form of the XYZ statement to present the same problem: “When you don’t help me with the dishes (X) after we have both worked all day (Y), I feel frustrated and despised (Z)”.
Here is another set of examples:
Ineffective: “Did you buy a new flat screen TV without consulting me? Don’t you realize we have bigger bills to pay?”
XYZ: “When you make a big purchase like that (X) without asking for my opinion first (Y), I feel frustrated and disrespected (Z).” Why does this communication strategy work?
It is effective because, although you are identifying a behavior or action of your partner (X) in a specific context (Y), the Z part is about your reaction to the situation. You are responsible for your own reactions and feelings, your partner does not make you feel anything. Accepting and communicating your responsibility in this equation helps reduce your partner’s defensive reactions and escalation into an argument. One caveat: be careful to use this method only to describe a behavior or action, not a perceived personality trait.
For example: Avoid saying, “When you get home and you’re lazy …” When you want to say, “When you get home and throw your jacket on the couch …” Using a term like “lazy.” it does not lead to effective dialogue.
Finally, the wonderful thing about XYZ’s technical statement is that it can also be used for positive situations and comments, which can lead to a greater closeness between you and your partner.
For example: “When you asked my opinion about buying a new TV (X), even though I know your heart was determined to buy one right away (Y), I felt appreciated and loved (Z).” Try practicing the XYZ statement strategy with your partner. I truly believe that both of you will find this most rewarding way to discuss and resolve any issues you encounter in your daily life.
Stay tuned for the next Part 2!