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How to get your message across respectfully?

It is easy to do. Lose your cool in the heat of the moment and say something that you later regretted. It is in these times that I-messages are your friend and a tool for all occasions. They get the message across about how you feel and what behaviour made you feel that way. And that is not the only benefit.
I-messages help provide feedback safely because they avoid the use of putdowns, judgement or assigning blame. There are three types of information you need to provide to give effective feedback to someone about their behaviour. These are:
  1. describing the behaviour,
  2. the feeling the behaviour creates and
  3. the effect that the behaviour has.

You want to describe the behaviour so the person knows what behaviour needs to change. So this should always be included in any message. Including how it makes you feel and/or what the effect is will help outline the problem better and how the behaviour effects others.

To teach people I-messages I normally start with describing the feelings and then the behaviour (numbers 1 and 2 above). For example: I feel … (name the feeling) when … (describe the behaviour)’. You might say, ‘I feel angry when people do not clean up after themselves.’

Some other examples are:
  • I feel angry when people call me names.
  • I feel hurt when no one asks what I want to do.
  • I feel suspicious when someone tells me one thing, then I find out they are doing another.

The speaker owns their feelings without coming across as judging the person. It promotes a willingness to exchange information, find a solution and to seek a constructive change in the situation. Rarely does this make matters worse. I-messages are a simple way to communicate in any situation. But do not confuse simple with easy. They take skill and practice.

See more details about using I-messages to communicate assertively on the I-message page.
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