How Do These I-Messages Help Relationships?

The Appreciative I-Message conveys positive feelings of appreciation, gratitude, relief or happiness to others.

Unlike praise which uses labels and judgments, Appreciative I-Messages focus on the person’s behavior and can include the positive effects on you.leadership i-message communication praise

A word about You-Messages and praise. People often resent positive You-Messages because they feel they are being judged or talked down to.

Even well-intentional You-Messages like the ones below, can leave the other person with uneasy feelings.  They’re also super vague and can be incorrect:

  • “You’re an awesome team player.” (What did you do to help the team? Details, please!)
  • “You’re such a good sport.” (Were you a good sport? What does this even mean?)
  • “Hey, great job!” (What if you know you didn’t do a great job?  What was great about it?  Is this praise going to be followed by a ”’…but next time, can you…”?)

On the other hand, Appreciative I-Messages are a way of acknowledging others’ contributions.

1. “I appreciate that you asked for my opinions in that meeting. I felt valued and it felt good to contribute.”
2. “I got a lot out of the blog you wrote this month. It really made me think.”
3. “I was impressed by your presentation at the convention yesterday. Almost 30% of the audience signed up to receive more information about us!”

It is important that Appreciative I-Messages not be used to manipulate or “shape” a team member’s behavior. Such ulterior motives invariably come through to the team member and make your sincerity suspect.

The Appreciative I-Message should be a “no-strings attached” expression of acceptance and acknowledgement.

Even though changing the other person should not be the motive, leaders who express a lot of positive feelings toward their team members are often automatically rewarded with less unacceptable behavior, more trust, mutual respect and cooperation.

(P.S. For more info on Appreciative I-Messages, check out our 30 second video on TikTok.)

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