As social beings, we interact with people every day, and the success of these interactions affects our happiness, especially in close relationships. Managing these relationships requires us to consciously observe the process and impact of our interactions, gaining knowledge, understanding, and experience in developing positive relationships. A good way to do this is through the communication technique of “I” Messages.
“I” messages involve making statements about ourselves, how we feel and our concerns, and what actions of the other party have led to these concerns. In contrast, “You” messages focus on the other person, which can lead to defensiveness, especially in a conflicting situation.
For example, instead of saying, “You are always coming home late! Why can’t you come back earlier?” which may lead to the spouse feeling blamed and attacked, try saying “I feel rather lonely while waiting for you to come home. I’m concerned that you are often home late, and I get rather frustrated wondering when you’re going to be home.” This statement shares the speaker’s feelings and concerns, which can lead to more trust in the relationship.
“I” messages are effective because they focus on the issue or concern, not on the other person. The sharing of the speaker’s feelings can also lead to more responsibility and trust in the relationship. The use of “I” messages is a more respectful way of communicating, even when expressing positive feelings. For example, “I’m so happy to see you. I remember all the fun we used to have. You look good” is a better way to express positive feelings.
Generally, an “I” message has three parts: express your feeling, describe the action that affects you or relates to the feeling, and explain how the action affects you or relates to the feeling. The order in which these parts are expressed is not important. Sometimes a fourth part might be added, stating our preference for what we would like to take place instead.
Examples of more “I” messages:
“I get very anxious when you raise your voice at me because it makes me feel like I’ve done something very wrong. Could you please not raise your voice when we talk?”
“I’m so happy you’re learning to cook because then I’ll know you can prepare your meal when I’m unable to be home in time to cook.”
“When you take so long talking to your friend on the phone, I’m concerned that there might be urgent calls that cannot come through. Also, I feel frustrated as I would like to spend more time with you. How about asking your friend to call at another time, when I am not around.”
Using “I” messages might not come naturally to most people initially. However, with practice, it becomes easier to communicate in this manner, resulting in better quality interactions and more harmonious relationships. By being assertive and honest in sharing our thoughts, feelings, and concerns through “I” messages, we can build more positive relationships with the people in our lives.