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Using “I” Messages

This activity helps learners learn to give criticism, explain a problem, make a suggestion, or express an opinion without being offensive to the other person.

Learning Objective Adult learners will understand the importance of “I” messages, identify their feelings, and express their feel- ings in difficult situations in a non-threatening manner.

Work-Based Skills EFF Skills: Interpersonal Skills: cooper- ate with others, resolve conflict and negotiate; Communication Skills: Speak so others can understand, listen actively, convey ideas in writing, read with understanding.

KSAs: Cooperates with others, Works on a team effectively, Listens for understanding; Talks with respect; Follows instructions; Reads work related text.

SCANS: Basic Skills: speaking, listen- ing, reading, writing; Interpersonal Skills: participates as a member of a team, exercises leadership; Resources: human.


  • Interpersonal relationships

  • Life skills

  • Problem solving

  • Work environment

understand how to explain a problem or express an opinion without offend- ing the other party.

This learning activity was part of a series of lessons on problems of com- munication in the workplace. We also covered lessons on understanding bar- riers to communication and improving listening habits.

  • 1.

    Ask learners how many times they have wanted to “tell someone off” but just let the situation pass because they knew a confrontation would occur.

  • 2.

    Encourage learners to share some of these situations with the class. Have the class share different approaches that could have been used and discuss the possible out- comes.

3. Explain that it is better to express how you feel about an issue rather to criticize the other party. Demon- strate verbal examples of “I” messages. Such examples might include “I’m really feeling upset about this,” instead of, “You really make me mad.”

Activity Description I have had learners who have quit their jobs because they could not get along with the boss. They did not

4. Using Handout 1, have the learners change the “you” messages to “I” messages.

Families First is the Tennessee program to provide training for those welfare recipients who lack basic education skills. While learners do work toward a GED, emphasis in these classes is shifting toward the knowledge, skills, and attitudes learners need to acquire and keep a good job.


Beverly Dean Henderson County Adult and Community Education

Materials and Resources

  • Handout 1—Using “I” Messages

  • Handout 2—Conflict Situations

  • A good additional resource is Job Survival Skills, Educational Design, Inc., 47 West 13 Street, New York, NY, 10011. This contains a worksheet of “I” messages.

Learner Level Multi-level

Learner Grouping Small group

Time Needed 2 hours

Setting This activity was done in a Families First class of approximately 5 – 10 learn- ers. The class meets Monday through Friday from 8 AM to 12 NOON.




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