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Understanding the difference between I-messages and You-messages

You might want to read ‘You-messages can work for and against you’ to get the background for this post. I had pointed out that you can have an I-message and a You-message combined like ‘I feel angry when you call me names’. It is common for those new to I-messages to use I feel …(feeling) when you … (behaviour). But an effective I-message does not contain a ‘you’ in it.
I feel angry when you call me names’ could be classed as both an I-message and a You-message. However, the ‘you’ in the statement still blames the other person, making them less likely to cooperate. It is best to treat a I feel … when you … message as a You-message and avoid them. Everything said before the ‘you’ is generally ignored by the person receiving the message.

As soon as they hear the ‘you’ people concentrate just on what they perceive is a personal attack that follows it. It is like using ‘but’ in an argument. This is interpreted to mean disregard everything I have said prior to the ‘but’. For example, ‘I agree with you, but …’ is normally followed by listing all the reasons why you do not agree with them.

Always avoid using ‘you’ when giving constructive feedback as it will be heard as a personal attack. Instead replace it with a generic term, like ‘people’, ‘someone’ or ‘anybody’. By using a generic term with an I-message, others are more likely to listen to your entire message and willingly change their behaviour. You normally feel the same no matter who is using that specific behaviour. So you do not have to single them out.

When you don’t accuse directly, it enables them to save face and their reaction to you is more open-minded and receptive. It provides an opportunity to start a conversation and work towards a solution.
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