I messages are the complete opposite of what we normally do, which are you messages. These messages take responsibility for how we are feeling and greatly improves our self esteem. You messages, project blame and judgement.
Johnny comes home late from school after being told earlier, that he must come home right away, because the family is leaving for the weekend on a short holiday.
“I thought I told you to come home right away after school. Didn’t you remember?!! Now you have inconvenienced everyone, especially your Father, who is waiting in the car ready to go.
Mom: "I was worried about you when you didn’t come home right after school. Are you okay?"
Johnny: “Oh Mom, I was playing with my friends and I forgot about the family vacation. I’m sorry.
Mom: "Well I am glad you are okay and disappointed you forgot."
Johnny: “I’m sorry Mom, I’ll rush and get ready right now."
A you message is child focused, not parent focused. The first message, focuses on the child’s behavior, the second message focuses on what the parent is feeling.
You messages are often interpreted by the child as an evaluation of him or her. I messages are interpreted as a statement of fact about the parent.
It takes courage, honesty and practice for parents to reveal what they are really feeling. The sender of this new way of communicating risks becoming known to the receiver, revealing his or her humanness.
I messages are so effective because they place responsibility within the child for changing his or her behavior. Consequently, I messages help a child grow and help her or him, assume responsibility for his or her own behavior.
Because these messages are honest, they tend to influence children to send similar honest messages whenever they have a feeling.
After work, I drove to my son’s new Daycare. It seems Jason had a rather remarkable day. The Day Care Supervisor told me Jason asked all the kids to get together in a circle. Tired of being picked on for being the new kid on the block, he told them how he felt about being teased and bullied.
Other kids, who were too shy to speak up, and had been there longer than Jason, also shared how they felt. He led a little seminar on “telling his truth” and “taking responsibility” for his feelings.
I had been practicing using this new way of communicating with my son. It seems he took this to heart when he confronted his friends at his Daycare and shared how he felt. What is remarkable, is how other kids, who were too shy to speak up, felt empowered to share how they were feeling as well.
Honesty and openness foster intimacy. When parents and children learn to be open and honest with each other, they are no longer strangers in the same house.
Using these messages is the same for adults. When we use these messages with our partners, family and friends etc. we are being open and honest with ourselves and consequently with whom we are speaking to and we are also boosting our self esteem.
You message: You spent our money on what? You bought a dress when we needed the money elsewhere?!! Do you enjoy being a flake?!
I message: I am so angry and frustrated right now. I thought we had an agreement about what we were going to spend the money on. I can’t believe you did that.
Again, the first message casts blame and judgement on the other party. In the second message, the adult takes responsibility for his feelings. This takes courage and honesty to do. Let’s take it further.
You message: John says. “You spent our money on what? You bought a dress when we needed the money elsewhere?!! Do you enjoy being a flake?!”
Erica replies. “Why do you always control the money? I never have any money to spend on me. It’s always about what you want. You’re such a jerk!"
New way of communicating: John says. “I am so angry and frustrated right now. I thought we had an agreement about what we were going to spend the money on. I can’t believe you did that."
Erica replies. “I’m sorry. It’s just there never seems to be enough money to spend on myself”
John says (using active listening) “You wish there was more money in our budget to spend on you."
Erica. " Yes, not a lot just a little."
John. " Well, let’s sit down together and see if we figure something out. What do you think?"
Erica. “That would be great. Thanks for understanding. "
Learning to use I messages goes a long long way to creating real relationships with each other. It can be awkward at first. It can also be uncomfortable.
However, with great risks, comes great rewards. Imagine having a real honest open relationship with your kids, spouse, friends and family members.
It also greatly benefits our self esteem!! All it takes is a little patience and practice.