I-Messages

Once Gordon feels he has made his point about the importance of Active Listening in Parent Effectiveness Training, he moves onto the other side of the coin – how parents can effectively communicate to their children.

The key suggestion here is to move from parental communication which focuses on the target of the message (the child), and instaid to focus on the sender (the parent). This is a transition from 'You-Messages' to 'I-Messages' (pp.103-138). The underlying thought here is acknowledging that the 'problems' which parents often need to communicate actually belong to the parent, not the child. When the parent 'owns' the problem, and communicates with an I-Message, they are openly and honestly explaining the situation – this is very different from the various otehr approaches that parents will use when raising a problem. Gordon categorises and critiques these alternative 'You-Messages', from ordering and preaching to giving solutions and threatening.

Given my personal behaviour, I found the negative comments on advising and providing constructive solutions a little challenging. On reflection, I definitely acknowledge that by providing a solution, I am denying someone else the opportunity to create the solution – a fairly subtle kind of dis-empowerment, but an important one if I expect them to be committed to making the solution happen.

Gordon also raised a number of the challenges with I-Messages, particularly the tendency to disguise 'You-Messages' as I-Messages. He also has some interesting comments on anger, which he suggests is not the real thing that needs to be honestly communicated, but is usually a defensive reaction to an original emotion (such as embarassment, or frustration) that needs to be uncovered and communicated.

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