Everything You Need to Know About Confrontive I-Messages

When sending Confrontive I-Messages*, you DO want to:

1. Tell the other person why they’re causing you a problem, not what they should do to solve it. Give them a chance to be a helper for you.

problem solve i-messages conflict resolution skills2. Practice getting in touch with your real feelings. (Yes, feelings. They’re there and they influence how you make decisions, so you might as well get to know them, right?) If your I-Messages are usually angry, you probably don’t know the real feelings you’re experiencing when you have a problem. Ask yourself, “What do I fear?” or “Why am I annoyed?” or “What’s going on with me?” because lots of times the behavior that you find unacceptable threatens the loss of something you need.

3. Try a second I-Message that is stronger when you’ve not been responded to or if the first I-Message doesn’t work.

4. Do a lot of listening to other people when they own problems (when it’s genuine of course) and one of the great benefits is that you’ll increase the chances that they’ll respond constructively to your I-Messages when you own the problem. The desire must be mutual—it cannot be one-way, at least not for long.

5. Listen carefully to the concern of upset you’ll usually hear when you confront other people, and then shift into Active Listening. You may want to send another I-Message

When sending I-Messages, you DON’T want to:

1. Expect others to change their behavior if you don’t tell them the actual and real effects of that behavior. Give them the real reasons, because they must be convinced there is a good and logical reason why they should change their behavior. Why else would they be expected to change? Remember, a good I-Message has three parts.

2. Expect that every I-Message will work. Remember that you don’t always feel like changing every time you’re confronted by a coworker, etc. either.

Would you like some more help with Confrontive I-Messages?

Guidelines on Confrontive I-Messages: Very short list of tips on the elements of I-Messages

How to Totally Mess Up Confrontation: Article by Dr. Bill Stinnett

A Practical Approach to I-Messages: Brief Video Blog by Dr. Stinnett

(*I-Messages were created by Dr. Thomas Gordon and are an essential skill of the Gordon Model, taught through various programs Dr. Gordon created, such as his leadership training program, L.E.T.)

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