Using I Messages

I learned about this technique when I went to training to become a mental health facilitator I few years back.

We’ve all done it. Lost our cool in the heat of the moment and said something we later regretted. There is a tool to overcome in times like this. It is I messages. It gets the message across about how we feel and what behaviors made you feel that way, all this without sounding like you are blaming them. I messages are a simple way to communicate in any situation. But do not confuse simple with easy. It takes skill and practice.

I-messages provide feedback safely, as they avoid put downs, judgement and assigning blame. There are three types of information when providing effective feedback to someone about their behavior. These are:

  • Describing the behavior
  • The feeling that behavior creates and
  • The effect that the behavior has

A description of the behavior is necessary to inform the person what the problem is. This should always be included in the message otherwise they will not know what behavior to change. Including with of the other types ( how it makes you feel and what the effect is) will normally be sufficient to communicate the problem effectively.

An I message states the behavior and describes the speakers feelings (number 1 and 2 above). The speaker owns their feelings without coming across as judging the person.nit promotes a willingness to exchange information, find a solution and to seek a constructive change in the situation. Rarely does this make matters worse.

For example I messages are delivered by says something like. “I feel angry when I am expecting a ride home and I am forgotten.

Some other examples of I-messages are:

I feel angry when people call me names.

I feel hurt when no one asks me what I want to do.

I feel awful when you tell me I cannot do something and I know I can do it.


In you messages, the message contains either you or you’re in it. You make me angry because you forgot to give me a ride home. Using You-messages blames the person for the situation and judges then. It can also hold others responsible for the feelings of the speaker as well as puts them down. It causes feeling in the receiver that can be defensive or start making excuses. All this does is make matters worse.

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