First, determine if what the other person is doing or saying is interfering with your ability to meet a concrete and tangible need.
Here’s an example:
You set up a Zoom meeting with your coworker, Alyssa, to work on a time-sensitive budget together. She agreed to be online then but didn’t show up and she didn’t reply to your texts or emails, asking her what happened. Not only are you worried about her, but you’re also very concerned about missing your deadline and hearing about it from Kayla, your shared boss.
In this scenario, you own the problem and so you need to confront. In the Gordon Model, you would send what we call a Confrontive I-Message. And it contains three parts:
- Behavior (specific, non-blameful description of what the other said or did)
- Feeling (how that made you feel)
- Effect (concrete and tangible impact on you
Your Confrontive I-Message to her would sound something like this:
“Hey Alyssa. I need to bring up something that’s bothering me…you and I agreed to have a Zoom meeting at 10:30 this morning and you didn’t show up or reply to my messages trying to find out where you were [Her behavior]. I am concerned about you…and I am also worried [Your feelings] that we’re not going to finish the budget in time which might put our projects in jeopardy, plus have Kayla upset with both of us. [Tangible impacts]”
A Confrontive I-Message doesn’t contain a solution. Leaving it out reduces resistance, increases the chance of them hearing you, gives them a chance to be considerate of your needs by them offering up a solution, which builds self-esteem. It creates a more collaborative relationship.
Remember to shift gears to Active Listening if the other person responds with defensiveness (you see that they’re in “other owns the problem” part of the Behavior Window). This is key. Give them a chance to respond. Acknowledge their side of the story. Then shift back to your I-Message when you see they’re no longer defensive and shift back and forth until they’ve heard you and vice versa. If you find yourselves in a deadlock, then you’d move into method III, the 4th/bottom part of the window, called “We Own a Problem”.