We usually manage to get our messages across, but there are times when we don’t. These are the times that are usually emotionally charged. There are times when we feel sad, scared, rotten or wonderful and we want to express it. But emotions can get in the way of the message. It is difficult to make our messages understood when they are delivered through tears, hugging, laughter or fist-pounding. In these cases, it is necessary to change the way we deliver the message and receive feedback on it.
In times of disagreement, it can be difficult to communicate with someone without becoming angry or upset. Quite often, this is when you make statements about the other person, using “you” statements. For example, saying something like “You make me mad” puts the other person on the defensive, and their response might be “I don’t care.” “You” messages are your own assumptions about someone else, and judge, label and blame. They are hard to listen to, they lack credibility, and they demand rebuttal, fueling the feelings of anger and resentment.
In emotionally charged conversations, it is better to limit your statements to descriptions about yourself. Avoid using “you” statements and consider using “I” statements. Instead of saying “You make me mad,” your statement could be “I feel angry.” This statement makes no judgment about the other person, but instead it expresses your own feelings. Talking about how you feel about someone else’s actions can be valuable feedback to that person, and prompts them to communicate more effectively.
Describe the facts and realities of the situation. Talk about what you hear, see, taste, touch or smell. These are not judgments, so it is important to make the distinction between what you observe and your judgment about it. In expressing your thoughts, you have to use some caution. Just because your statement begins with an “I” does not always make it an “I” message. A statement like “I think you are inconsiderate” is still a “you” statement in disguise.
In addition to what you are saying, how you saw something can be important. The tone of your voice and your gestures can modify, support, or contradict what you say. Most nonverbal behavior is unconscious. But you can learn to aware of them, and choose many of your nonverbal messages. When you know what you want to say and believe in it, your inflections, gestures, and words will help you across your message across.
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