If expectations are not fulfilled, if I cannot accept certain behaviour or if I myself am in conflict with my partner, I can use "I-messages" to tell him that I am also a person with feelings, who is annoyed, disappointed, vulnerable.
The I-message gives the other person information on how I am doing. I express my emotion directly, highlighting my feelings through facial expressions and gestures. The other person receives a clear message.
Courage and inner security are needed to send an I-message and thus to reveal my inner feelings in a relationship. But if I take the risk of engaging in open, symmetrical communication, it results in a truly interpersonal relationship.
I-messages are abused if we use them as hidden you-messages to manipulate our partners and to change everything about them which we don’t like or which doesn’t fit our ideas. Both hidden and open you-messages are seen as unacceptable by the partner. He feels guilty and will develop resistance against accusations and finished solutions. He feels challenged to attack us or to get revenge later.
You-messages are often sent when parents, teachers or superiors feel harassed or frustrated by the behaviour of children, pupils or staff, condemn that behaviour and/or are annoyed by it.
- A child climbs onto the table with outdoor shoes on.
- A pupil repeatedly arrives late and disrupts lessons.
- A member of staff does not complete the tasks assigned to him.
The messages which result from this can usually be sorted into one of the following three categories:
Using logical arguments, providing facts
Providing advice, offering solutions
Praising, agreeing, giving positive assessments, calming, sympathising, supporting, sounding out, asking, questioning
Judging, criticising, contradicting, blaming
Ordering, commanding, instructing, moralising, preaching
Insulting, using clichés, point scoring
Interpreting, analysing, diagnosing
Teasing, winding up
Being sarcastic, digressing, distracting