The Do’s and Don’ts of I-Messages

Ever heard of I-Messages? Or I-Language? I am sure you have. Guess where they came from? Indeed—Dr. Thomas Gordon. For those who are familiar with this skill, I think you will identify with these tips. For those who aren’t familiar, perhaps it’s time to sign up for that leadership training program you’ve been wanting to take.

leadership training skillsWhen sending I-Messages, you DO want to:

– Tell team members and others why they’re causing you a problem, not what they should do to solve it. Give them a chance to be a helper to you.

– Practice getting in touch with your real feelings. If your I-Messages are usually angry, you probably don’t know the real feelings you’re experiencing when you have a problem.

(Here’s a really important point!) Ask yourself, “What do I fear?” because lots of times the behavior that you find unacceptable threatens the loss of something you need.

– Try a second I-Message that is stronger when you feel ignored or if the first I-Message doesn’t work.

– Do a lot of listening to other people when they own problems and you’ll increase the chances that they’ll respond constructively to your I-Messages when you own the problem. The desire to help must be mutual–it cannot be one-way, at least not for long.

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

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

– 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 whould they be expected to change?

Remember, a Confrontive I-Message has three parts = Behavior (something you see the other doing or hear the other saying), Effect (tangible and concrete impact on you) and Feeling (your feeling).

– Expect that every I-Message will work. Remember that you don’t always feel like changing every time you are confronted by a co-worker either.


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