Communication: You-Messages and I-Messages

One method of turning fights into intimate conversations is to turn “you-messages” into “I-messages”. You-messages take complaints and make accusations (i.e. “You’re always late.” Or, “You’re selfish.”). Blame and accusations can inflame an argument. I-messages communicate complaints in a more constructive way (“When you come home late, I feel hurt.” Or, “When you spend so much money, I feel scared.”). I-messages focus on the result of an action, rather than apportioning blame. These messages are contagious, too. People who receive I-messages will generally respond with one. The therapist’s role in a couple’s conversations is to translate you-messages into true I-messages, in order to highlight the speaker’s wishes, doubts, and fears to create a greater understanding.

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