In any social situation, you are expected to contribute. Sharing opinions is a way to present your personality to the world, and a way to create the image that you want to project. It is also an invitation for the other person to share their opinion, setting the stage for an engaging discussion or debate. In this module, we will discuss the skills you can use in sharing your opinion. Particularly, we will discuss how to use I-messages, disagree constructively, and build consensus.
An I-message is a message that is focused on the speaker. When you use I-messages, you take responsibility for your own feelings instead of accusing the other person of making you feel a certain way. The opposite of an I-message is a You-message.
An I-message is composed of the following:
Describe the person’s behavior you are reacting to in an objective, non-blameful, and non-judgmental manner.
“When … “
Describe the concrete or tangible effects of that behavior.
“The effects are … “
“I’d prefer … “
Here is an example of an I-message:
“When I have to wait outside the office an extra hour because you didn’t inform me that you’d be late (problem/issue), I become agitated (effect). I prefer for you to send me a message if you will not be able to make it (alternative behavior).”
The most important feature of I-messages is that they are neutral. There is no effort to threaten, argue, or blame in these statements. You avoid making the other person defensive, as the essence of an I-message is “I have a problem” instead of “You have a problem”. The speaker simply makes statements and takes full responsibility for his/her feelings.
There is nothing wrong with disagreement. No two people are completely similar therefore it’s inevitable that they would disagree on at least one issue. There’s also nothing wrong in having a position and defending it.
To make the most of a disagreement, you have to keep it constructive. The following are some of the elements of a constructive disagreement:
Consensus means unanimous agreement on an area of contention. Arriving at a consensus is the ideal resolution of bargaining. If both parties can find a solution that is agreeable to both of them, then anger can be prevented or reduced.
The following are some tips on how to arrive at a consensus:
Jonas was never sure how to voice his opinion without feeling like he was imposing on others. He asked his friend, Neil, for some advice on how to feel more comfortable with sharing his disagreements with his coworkers. Neil asked Jonas to try phrasing his complaints as issues he has; “Try saying I have a problem, rather than you have a problem,” Neil explained. He also suggested that Jonas use tactics such as approaching problems with a focus on finding a solution, and to build a consensus with everyone involved to find a win-win solution. Jonas thanked his friend, and when he started putting his advice into practice he found himself much more productive at office meetings.