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The brief guide to I messages

For those looking for a simpler guide of what is an I-message keep on reading. It covers a summary of how to use I-messages, why you use them and why to avoid using you-messages.

What is an I message?

I-messages are used to give feedback to others while avoiding putdowns, judgement or assigning blame. I-messages:
  • describe the feeling the behaviour creates (and/or the effect that the behaviour has)
  • describe the behaviour that needs to change

How to use I messages?

To using an I-messages the speaker starts with describes their feelings and then the behaviour that creates those feelings.

I feel … (name the feeling) when … (describe the behaviour)’.

Some other examples of I-messages 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.

Why use I messages?

The speaker:
  • owns their feelings
  • comes across as not judging the person because they feel the same way no matter who is doing that type of behaviour
  • gives information about the behaviour that needs to change

What are You messages?

With you-messages, the speaker uses you or you’re even if used together with ‘I feelwhen …'.

  • You make me so angry when you don’t clean up after yourself.
  • I feel angry when you call me names.
  • I feel hurt when you don’t ask what I want to do.

Why avoid using You messages?

The speaker using a You-message:
  • Blames the specific person for the situation
  • It sounds way more judgemental
  • It is easy for insults, labels and putdowns to be used - 'Your a [insult] and useless [putdown]’
  • It can hold the listener responsible for the speakers feelings
  • It can make the listener become defensive and start making excuses
  • As soon as the lister hears the ‘you’, they focus on what is said as a personal attack

So instead:
  • Use an I-message
  • Replace you with a word like ‘people’, ‘someone’ or ‘anybody’.

Using a general term rather than you, others are more likely to listen and more willing change their behaviour. By not accusing someone directly, it enables them to save face.

The only time to use You messages!

The time to use You-messages are when the person has done something good and you want to reward the good behaviour.

  • You have done a great job in cleaning up after yourself. Thank you.
  • I really appreciate it when you ask me what I want to do.
  • When your honest about what you have been doing that builds the trust I have in you.

Full guide to I-messages

To get the full guide to I messages go to:
The I- messages in detail page

How to get your message across respectfully? post

You-messages can work for and against you post

Understanding the difference between I-messages and You-messages post

Only use I-messages for good post
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