The Benefits of I-Messages

Photo by Paul Stocker

I-messages seem simple enough, but the benefits that come from them are anything but simple.

  • We are more likely to influence another person to change an undesired behavior by using I-messages. Because they are less threatening, I-messages are less likely to provoke resistance or make the other person feel bad.
  • We place the responsibility for changing the behavior or action on the other person. Stating an I-message brings attention to the problem at hand without dictating how it must be rectified, trusting the other person to repect our needs and allowing them to take ownership of their actions. We relinguish any attempt at controlling the other person and allow them to take responsibility for their own actions.
  • When we use I-messages, we model honesty. Honest, open communication from one person in a relationship promotes reciprocal treatment from the other.
  • We open ourselves to the other person. Not only do we show that we are a feeling person with needs, we show that we can also trust the other person to be cognizant of our needs. By sharing of ourselves, we strengthen our relationship.

myth: cooperation takes time…

Many parents believe that cooperating and problem solving with their children takes more time than more authoritarian parenting methods. However, this is actually the opposite of the truth.

  • Many conflicts only take a few minutes to resolve when working with all parties.
  • Problems which take longer to solve usually stay solved when cooperative solutions are used.
  • Cooperative solutions save time since children are invested in the solutions and parents do not need to remind or enforce solutions which the children are not in agreement with.
  • As children and parents learn how to cooperate and to trust that their needs and feelings will be respected, they became more practiced at finding cooperative solutions.

taking back childhood…

Childhood has changed. Endless hours of playing in dirt, working beside parents, and sitting down to a dinner with your family has been replaced by a mad rush to get to the next activity, run through drive-through for a bite to eat, and then sitting down to watch advertisement filled television. Interactions between parent and child are limited and stressful. Instead of building a life-long relationship with our children, families are being driven apart and individuals find themselves looking to fill those roles with what the media deems as necessary. 

Nancy Carlsson-Paige addresses these issues and more in her book, Taking Back Childhood. Building off of the work of Jean Piaget and Marshall Rosenberg, she has presented the concepts of consensual living in a gentle, non-confrontational way which would appeal to those gentle parents who aren’t quite on board with the paradigm shift of consensual living. Addressing topics such as age and developmentally appropriate behavior, I-statements, active listening, win-win conflict resolution, and descriptive observations rather than judgements, Carlsson-Paige has a firm understanding of non-violent communication.

She has also linked much of the downfall of families to the media marketed violence children experience, citing a drastic change in marketing to children during Reagan’s administration when limitations on marketing and media were lifted. Today’s children are viewing an unprecedented amount of television and movies, all conveniently chock full of advertisements. Instead of playing creatively, they are learning how marketers dictate that they should play, with mass marketed toys which play for them.

The author’s easy going writing style is an assest to this book, along with the strength of her subjects. However, it’s my opinion that she has tried to take on too many topics in one book. Both aspects, consensual living and marketed media, would make stronger books on their own. The constant switching between topics detracts from the finer points and takes away from the strength of the ideas.