(from the L.E.T. Refresher Workshop workbook)
In our leadership training program (and in all the Gordon Model programs), self-disclosing messages are referred to as I-Messages. An l-Message is a communication about the self — the “I”. A bit about the history of I-Messages first:
The Confrontive I-Message (not discussed in this specific Blog) was created by Dr. Thomas Gordon and incorporated into his P.E.T. program in 1962. The additional types of I-Messages below were created by Gordon Training International’s President, Linda Adams.
Okay, back to the topic at hand!
An I-Message is authentic, honest, and congruent — reflecting the actual nature and strength of your thoughts and feelings. It is a clear message, understandable, and to the point, not masked in indirect or vague language.
Declarative I-Messages Are the Basic Form of Self-Disclosure
They are the declaration to others –co-workers, family, friends–of your beliefs, ideas, likes, dislikes, feelings, thoughts, reactions or any other statement that helps others know you better and understand how you are experiencing your life.
Some examples of Declarative I-Messages:
• “I believe the company’s new mission statement is really inspiring.”
• “I think that we should have the option of signing up for overtime.”
• “I feel discouraged about how our merger is going.”
Appreciative I-Messages Enhance and Strengthen 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. Appreciative I-Messages are a way of acknowledging others’ contributions.
Some examples of Appreciative I-Messages:
• “I appreciate that you asked for my opinions in that meeting. I felt valued and it felt good to contribute.”
• “I got a lot out of the article you wrote for the company blog. It really made me think.”
• “I was impressed by your speech at the convention yesterday. Nearly 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.
Preventive I-Messages Stop Trouble Before It Starts
Another important type of self-disclosure is one that lets others know of some future need that you want to meet; it anticipates what you want to do or see happen. Such a message, because it clearly describes how you want events to turn out, greatly increases the chances that others will adjust their actions so as not to block what you need. Such a message may prevent a conflict.
Some examples of Preventive I-Messages:
• “I need some uninterrupted time tomorrow morning so I can submit payroll.”
• “I’d like to hear about the days you need off so I can work on the shift schedule.”
• “I’d love to be on your board. Since my schedule is pretty hectic, I’ll need a couple of days to think about how to re-schedule my time.”
All of these self-disclosing messages do reveal who you are which can be, well….a bit scary. You might be thinking, “If people know me, they know how to help me, but they also know how to hurt me, too.” And this is a risk, that’s true. But we encourage you to take a chance! Revealing your needs, thoughts, fears and concerns can be amazingly powerful and helpful in creating truly collaborative and rewarding relationships.