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thHow effectively do you deal with conflict? Anyone looking for a job knows that question is at the top of every interviewer’s list. Dread it, fear it, cry or get angry, we all face conflict and navigating it effectively can improve our relationships, both at home and at work.

Conflicts that are not resolved in a productive manner can get in the way of addressing important issues. Through research and experience, I find using I-messages is one of the most effective ways to communicate my feelings to others and resolve conflicts. I-messages are focused on the feelings of the person speaking, convey ownership of those feelings, and are less likely to escalate conflict than using their counterpart, you-messages. You-messages don’t work as well because they “suggest blame, and encourage the recipient to deny wrong-doing or to blame you back.” (Heidi Burgess, I-Messages and You-Messages).

The goal of I-messages is to effectively express your needs without putting the listener on the defensive. One area of frequent conflict that we can all identify with is household chores. For example:

  • If you are frustrated with your roommate or partner because they don’t help out enough in the kitchen saying, “You never do the dishes,” might not get a very positive response. But if you say, “I feel overwhelmed when I come home and see that the dishes aren’t done,” it gives the listener an opportunity to help solve that problem without feeling attacked.

Resolving work-related conflicts in a productive manner is a critical component to professional success. Here’s an example of how to use an I-message at work:

  • If you are having trouble understanding your boss’s expectations, saying something like, “You always ignore my questions,” your boss might get defensive and angry. But if you say, “I am not sure how to handle this, can we work together to make sure I am on the right path,” he or she will likely want to do all they can to help you be successful.

Of course, remember to be mindful of your body language and tone of voice when facing a stressful situation. The best I-message in the world won’t be effective if it’s delivered with a snarky tone or an angry look.

Using I-messages can be beneficial for both your personal and professional lives. Using I-messages when communicating with your family and friends can help strengthen and deepen your relationships. Using this technique in the workplace can create a more effective communication style between you and your colleagues and ultimately, result in better outcomes at work.

I challenge you to try using more I-messages and to be patient, as it takes time to use them effectively. If you want to learn more about using I-messages, Wikipedia has a thorough description and cites other resources, as well. You can read Heidi Burgess’s (noted above) article by clicking here. If you have a great example of how an I-message has helped you…or could have helped you, please share it here!

DailyWorkHeadshot - MargaretMaggie Fischer is a social work major at University of St. Thomas and a case management intern at Daily Work.

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