Using an “I” Message Can Flip a Difficult Conversation to a Positive One

Flip a Difficult Conversation to a Positive One with an “I” Message

How many interactions do you have with people in a single day? How would you rate them? We feel great when they are positive. Especially when it involves people we care about. But even the people we care about have unique personalities. So we to have to be aware of our words and our tone of voice to keep our relationships healthy.

Being respectful when sharing our thoughts, feelings and concerns is an important part of relationships. Otherwise neither party will even listen. “I” messages – delivered the right way – are a great communication technique to get the other party to hear what you are saying.

Handle “I” with Care

In “I” messages, we make statements about how we feel about others’ actions. “You” messages focus on the other person, usually leading to defensiveness by the other party. For example, you are anxiously waiting for your spouse or partner to return home. Saying “You are always coming home late! Why can’t you come back earlier?” sounds like an attack.

In contrast, here’s how an “I” message would sound: “I feel rather lonely while waiting for you to come home. I’m concerned that you are often home late and I get rather frustrated wondering when you’re going to be home.” This statement shares feelings and concerns. A great starting point for both parties to work out what can be done about it because the focus is on the issue or concern and not on the other person.

The “I”s Have It Over the “You”

In most interactions “I” messages outperform “You” messages as a more respectful way of communicating. Even positive expressions, such as this “You” message: “You look good in this dress,” can be improved by an “I” message: “I’m so happy to see you. I remember all the fun we used to have. You look wonderful.”

Generally, an “I” message follows a formula:

  • you state how you feel
  • you describe the action that concerns you
  • describe how and why he action affects you.

And sometimes, it’s appropriate to add what action would make you feel better.

So, by describing the anxiety surrounding a late homecoming and sharing that the spouse is missed, it is easier for the person to hear the message and opens the way to make a change, like promising to call if the spouse is held up.

It may take some work to use “I” messages regularly but with practice, this communication approach will pay off when you see the results in better relationships, not only with people you care about, but in your everyday interactions.

©2017 Alpha Resource Center


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