Continuing with my 3-part Conflict Management series (Part 1 spoke about the STOP tool, while Part 2 talked about Perspective Change) in this third blog post I want to share in more detail what you can do after you stopped and switched perspectives for a moment and start responding to and communicating with the other person.
We often respond with You-messages when we feel being pushed into a corner and need to defend ourselves. Do you know what I mean? Here are some examples: ‘You are the one to blame, you started this fight in the first place…’, ‘You are always late for appointments…’, ‘You never clean the dishes right….’. Now, I want to invite you to respond differently next time by switching from You to I- we call this I-messages. I-messages have 3 advantages over You-messages:
The receiver of your message learns something about the actual needs and feelings that you have.
And as such, the receiver does not have to defend her/himself because she/he is not attacked or accused in any way in the first place.
A discussion about who is right and who is wrong can be avoided.
I-messages are much more constructive and supportive in difficult situations than You-messages, I-messages are de-escalating in nature.
I-messages are personal expressions about how you perceive a certain situation through facts, feelings, beliefs and values.
According to Thomas Gordon, a complete I-message consists of 3 parts:
The triggering behavior without evaluating the same. I-messages often start with "If..." or "I...". Just be precise in what you observe.
The effect on you. The sender’s intention might have been good, you wouldn’t question that. Just share the concrete effect on you in this context, what you experience consequently.
In conjunction with the effect, share how you feel about it.
"If we all speak at the same time, I don't understand each of you clearly and get frustrated."
"I feel sorry about what happened in yesterday’s meeting, I got triggered and lost my control."
It is a small switch and reframing from You to I, from blaming someone’s intention to sharing about effects on you, and by doing so you take responsibility for yourself. You might want to try next time when you start a difficult conversation. Well, this is the last of my 3-part series about Emotional Management and Conflicts; I hope you enjoy applying the STOP-tool, Perspective Changes and I-messages especially in difficult situations and conversations from now on.
Let me know how it goes, feedback or questions in the Comment section below. ?