Ask students if they have ever been accused of something and how it made them feel. After listening to a few student responses, show students the “Sample ‘You-Message’” activity sheet. Have students read the text conversation between Naomi and her friend. After reading the text messages, analyze the conversation by asking the following questions: Why is Naomi upset? How do you think she is feeling? How do you think her friend felt when she read Naomi’s messages? Which word is repeated the most in this conversation? (Answer is “you.”) What types of adjectives do Naomi and her friend use to describe each other? (Answer could be liar, mean, worst friend ever.) Could Naomi have talked to her friend in a better way?
Lead the class to understand that effective communication is the key to resolving conflicts. Explain to students that whenever people are upset or angry, they often accuse others of doing things and use “You-Messages” instead of explaining how a person’s actions made them feel. When accusations and hurtful words (“You-Messages”) are used by the speaker, more conflict is often triggered because the listener feels as if they are being attacked. Instead, the best way to effectively communicate during a conflict is to use something called an “I-Message.”
Explain how an “I-Message” contains three important pieces.
- Begin the statement with “I” instead of “you,” and a statement of feelings. (Write “I feel _____________” on the board.)
- Include a statement about the problem or what happened, but only stick to the facts! Do not use any hurtful words, accusations, or insults. (Write “when you _______________” on the board.)
- End the message with why the person’s behavior has affected you and made you feel certain emotions. (Write “because _____________.” on the board.)
When finished writing all of the parts of an “I-Message,” the final formula should look like the following: “I feel ____________ when you ______________ because _______________.”
Inform students that the way a person says their “I-Message” is very important. Tell students, “An ‘I-Message’ should always be said in a calm voice with eye contact, confidence, and respectful body language.”