• Your spouse continually interrupts you in public.
• Your coworker sometimes makes unilateral decisions about issues that affect you.
• Your friend has borrowed money and agreed to repay it, but has not.
• Your assistant often comes to work late.
• Your boss often doesn’t inform you when s/he will be out of town.
WHEN YOU OWN THE PROBLEM
In all these situations, the other person has behaved in a way that interferes with your needs or rights, so her or his behavior is unacceptable to you. The Confrontive I-Message is a constructive way to express negative feelings.
Though similar to the other kinds of self-disclosure (it’s authentic, congruent, and direct), it is somewhat different and more complex, because you confront the other person with your negative feelings about how her or his behavior affects you.
When another person’s behavior is interfering (or has already interfered) with your meeting your needs, you own the problem. You want to focus on your negative feelings and your unmet needs. And your ultimate purpose is to change the situation so your needs will be met. Effective confrontation recognizes the other’s rights and needs as well as your own, so ideally you want to communicate:
• That you’d like to get your needs met, hopefully through a change in the other’s behavior
• That you want to preserve the other’s self-esteem
• That you want to maintain the relationship
The chances that the other person will be willing to modify her or his behavior will be greatly increased if your Confrontive message contains these elements:
1. Your feelings
2. What behavior of hers or his is causing you a problem
3. How that behavior is affecting you
A message encapsuling these three elements is what we call a Confrontive I-Message. For more on this type of I-Message, check out this fantastic article by L.E.T. Master Facilitator, Dr. Bill Stinnett.