Diana Lang

I-messages are effective communication techniques to use when talking with another person.  The goals of I-messages are to keep interactions positive, and avoid blame, guilt, judgment, and shame.  I-messages express your own feelings, while “you” messages place assumptions or judgments onto the person with whom you are speaking.  A “you” message would sound like, “You need to pay more attention!” or “You shouldn’t be acting like that.”[1]

Photo of a young child playing with wooden blocks
Figure 1. A child playing with blocks (Photo Source: Tatiana Syrikova, Pexels License)

Here is an example of turning a “you” message into an I-message.  The “you” message might be something like, “You always disobey our rules and do whatever you want!” However, turning it into an I-message might sound more like this, “I feel angry when you disobey the rules we’ve laid out for you because I feel disrespected.  I like it when you obey the rules, guidelines, and boundaries we have in this family because it makes me feel like you care about me, yourself, and the whole family.”[2]

How to use this method:

  • “I feel ___
  • When ___
  • Because ___
  • I like ___”[3]

This outline expresses how you feel about a given situation, action, or behavior by explaining what you feel, why you feel that way, and what you would like the desired behavior to be.


  • “I feel worried and anxious when it is one hour past the time you were to be home and I have not heard from you because I fear something bad has happened.  I like it when you keep in touch with me if you might be late.  I need you to contact me if you will be late.”

Key Takeaway

  • I-messages start with the word “I,” express your own feelings to keep communication positive, and help avoid blame and judgment onto the other person.

  1. Eastman, K. L., Corona, R. A., & Schuster, M. (2006, October). Talking Parents, Healthy Teens: A Worksite-based Program for Parents to Promote Adolescent Sexual Health. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/pcd/issues/2006/oct/06_0012.htm
  2. American Academy of Pediatrics. (2015, November 21). Components of Good Communication. Retrieved April 11, 2020, from https://www.healthychildren.org/English/family-life/family-dynamics/communication-discipline/Pages/Components-of-Good-Communication.aspx
  3. Heath, P. (2013). Parent-child relations: Context, research, and application (3rd Ed.). Pearson.


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