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Coach’s Corner – 3 Simple Steps to Manage Conflict (3/3)

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:

    1. The receiver of your message learns something about the actual needs and feelings that you have.
    2. 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.
    3. 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.

Examples:

  • “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. 😊

Check out more blog posts in this series: Coach’s Corner.

3 Comments
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  •  

    Hello Marc,

    I just read 3 parts of this blog. You have presented a deep subject in very consumable way. The techniques outlined in the blog are immensely helpful; provided the person in question is able to recognize that they are triggered by a situation or person.

    Quoting a personal experience, recently I had this short conversation with a close colleague and it left me baffled. I perceived the interaction as a rude one, but put off talking about it for a day. The next day I talked to him about how I felt during our last interaction. He was able to talk to me and explain his state of mind just because I did not accuse him.

  • Thanks for this short series, Marc!

    I’ve been trying to use I-messages for quite some time and get others to do this as well, just in a different context: in online discussions or comment threads related to human-caused climate change. There’s always the temptation to just tell one of the dismissives/deniers/contrarians “You are so wrong and here are the reasons why!” but it usually works out a lot better to just mention why I’m concerned about it, why I accept what the vast majority of climate scientists state and why – to tell the truth – I’d be much happier if they were actually wrong but that as far as I can tell the likelihood of that being the case is close to zero. This more often than not avoids going into a drawn-out back-and-forth and thereby is a real time-saver!

     

  • Thank you Marc for this helpful blog. Great reminder and also a wonderful ressource to share with my clients. I appreciate that you took the time to create this good read. The I-Messages help me especially in personal conversations and with my Kids. I try to teach them also to use I-Messages, which helps a lot in re-reflections and re-phrasing. The message I want to get out is more precise and clear.