March 21, 2012
We all struggle with communicating clearly. For some of us, ineffective communication frequently gets us in trouble. Sometimes we have so much in our heads that it’s hard to say it all in a couple sentences. Or it’s complicated so we get confused and overwhelmed. Other times, we’re emotionally overloaded. We have trouble asserting ourselves in a healthy way and we become aggressive and verbally attack others.
As in any area of life, some quick tips and helpful techniques allow a more healthy process to occur during difficult circumstances. One of these tips is communicating with “I” messages rather than “you” messages. This can be an easy key to facilitate successful communication and eliminate some obstacles when navigating conflict in any relationship.
“You” messages sound like this: You just don’t care…You are a problem… Can’t you…? You are sooo…. Generally “you” messages attack, put the other person on the defensive, and attribute to others things they didn’t really do and motives they didn’t really have. You don’t know for sure what was going on inside them, so you are jumping to conclusions.
“I” messages deal with items you do know. They convey what you feel or what you experienced. Here are some examples: I feel very angry because… I feel rejected when… When I get interrupted, I feel ….
Instead of “When you blew me off and forgot to pick me up on time, you rejected me,” you can say “When I didn’t get picked up on time, I felt unimportant.” You aren’t saying what the other person felt or why, you are just stating the situation as you know and experienced it. Hopefully, the other person can do the same and you can share what is in each other’s heart instead of holding a blame and judgment fest.
When we are hurt or feel attacked, we often feel the need to go on the offensive instead of just listening and communicating what we do know.
“I” messages communicate honesty and openness. The Bible teaches us to build up, not tear down. Using “I” messages, we are less likely to harm and break down others, while still allowing ourselves to be open, honest, transparent, and vulnerable.
Today, monitor your speech. How many times do you use “you” statements? Try practicing even in good circumstances. “When the door is opened for me, I feel special. Thanks for holding the door for me!” Then you will be more apt to use “I” statements in the more difficult times when communication is essential. During a conflict, you can also ask the other party to use “I” statements to tell you what happened and how they felt in the situation. Life is your decision, so choose well.
Dear Father God, help me to be more gracious in communicating with my spouse and loved ones. The ones I care about the most seem to be the ones I get most upset with and make accusatory statements to. Help me understand myself better and take responsibility for what comes out of my mouth, for my feelings, and most importantly, what is in my heart. Help me to build up and not tear down. I pray this and all prayers in the name of the One you sent to teach me, Jesus Christ; and all God’s children say – AMEN!
Be gracious in your speech. The goal is to bring out the best in others in a conversation, not put them down, and not cut them out. Colossians 4:6