Lesson 2 of 7 - learn to communicate effectively

Effective Assertion Skill

An "I"-message Worksheet

By Peter K. Gerlach, MSW
Member NSRC Experts Council


The Web address of this article is https://sfhelp.org/cx/tools/I_msg.htm

Updated 01-11-2015

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      This is one of a series of articles in Lesson 2 - learn communication basics and seven powerful skills to get more daily needs met more often. Progress with this Lesson depends on concurrent progress on Lesson 1 - free your true Self to guide you in calm and conflictual times.

      This brief YouTube video explains assertive "I" messages:

      This article provides a way to practice forming effective "I" messages (assertions).    

      The article assumes you're familiar with...

  • the intro to this this nonprofit Web site and the premises underlying it  

  • self-improvement Lessons 1 and 2

  • perspective on giving someone personal feedback; and...

  • an introduction to effective assertion.

  “I”-Message Worksheet

      “I” messages are assertive statements which raise the odds another person can hear you clearly. They’re called “I” messages because they focus mainly on your needs and feelings, rather than on your communication partner ("you” messages). Print this worksheet, and use it to construct a mutually-respectful "I" message with an adult or child whose behavior you wish to change. 

      Use your version of this sample Bill of Personal Rights as the authority for asserting any “I” message when your true Self is steadily guiding your personality. For more perspective, see these examples of meta-comments, after you finish this..

1)  A person who's behavior often causes me a problem is (name):


2)  A specific behavior of theirs that significantly bothers me is... (factually describe something that could be recorded on video or audio tape):



3)  Specific ways this behavior affects me - what needs of mine does it interfere with?



 4)  The R(espect)-message I receive from this behavior is that s/he feels her or his current needs are…

    _  more important than mine (s/he's ”1-up”’)

    _  just as important as mine  (“we’re of equal dignity and worth - '=/='”);

    _  less important than mine (s/he's "1-down”)

    5)  Specific changes in behavior (vs. values) that I need this person to want to make are…


6)  Typical responses that I make to this person's behavior now are…

_ Blaming

_ Exploding

_ Pleading

_ Withdrawing

_ Bargaining

_ Diverting

_ Threatening

_ Demanding

_ Judging

_ Crying

_ Requesting

_ Compromising

_ Questioning

_ Bringing up the past

_ Sending mixed messages

_ Accusing

_ Explaining

_ Sarcasm

_ Interrupting

_ Getting help

_ Analyzing

_ Generalizing

_ Attacking

_ Assuming

_ Collapsing

_ Arguing

_ Joking

_ Empathizing

_ Name-calling

_ Numbing out

_ Advising

_ Sulking

_ Preaching

_ Getting even

_ Submitting

_ Repressing

7)  The R(espect) message the other person may decode from my responses is: “You feel your current needs are…

_  more important than mine” (“you’re 1-up”)

_  just as important as mine” (“we’re co-equals - =/=”);

_  less important than mine” (“you’re 1-down”)

8)  The usual outcome from my response is…

_  I get what I need, but s/he doesn’t (win/lose)

_  S/He gets what s/he needs, but I don't (lose/win)

_  We both get enough of what we need (win/win)

_  Neither of us gets enough of what we need (lose/lose)

9)  Who feels good enough about our typical communication process here?

_  I do  _  s/he does  _  we both do  _  neither of us does

10)  Other awareness factors:

  • Time of day:  _ Hinders our outcome   _ Doesn’t hinder us  _ I’m not sure

  • Place:  _ Hinders our outcome   _ Doesn’t hinder us  _  It varies  _ I’m not sure

  • Other people present: _ Hinders our outcome   _ Doesn’t hinder us  _ I’m not sure

  • Other factors

    11)  A possible assertive "I-message" I might use in this situation:

Describe the other person’s troublesome behavior clearly, specifically, and uncritically:

    "When you…

Describe factually and realistically how their behavior affects or interferes with me:


    Option: describe specifically what action I need from them, and when (time, date):

    "...and I need you to _(take a specific action)_ by _(a specific time)__."

    Example - A three-part “I-message” sounds like this:

“Janet, when you often arrive 15 to 20 minutes after when you say you’ll come,... (specific recordable behavior)

    "…I get irritated and frustrated, because I’ve made an effort to be on time. I’m losing my trust that I can count on you to be prompt. (specific effects on you.)

    "I really need you to respect me and my time, and arrive when you say you will. Otherwise, tell me if you’ll be more than 10 (vs. 'a few') minutes late.” (Is this a request or a demand?)

    Notes / Thoughts



    online mail-order form for paperback and hardcober editions        The unique guidebook Satisfactions (Xlibris.com, 2nd ed., 2010) integrates the key Lesson-2  Web articles in this nonprofit Web site, and provides many practical resources.

    + + +    

          Pause, breathe, and reflect: why did you read this article? Did you get what you needed? If not - what do you need? Who's answering these questions - your wise, resident true Self or ''someone else''?  

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