Assertive Messages Format: Using I Statements
Assertiveness is a respectful and active way of communicating that gives you and other parties the best likelihood of resolving conflict or preventing conflict. Assertiveness can be a difficult habit to start.
Use this format when you are planning in your head what to say when you might be tempted to say something aggressive or avoid communicating something you need to. You don’t necessarily have to use all of the parts to this “I” statement formula, but it will make your message more clear the more of it you use. Change your language from "you" messages such as "You're a jerk.. it's all your fault" into "I feel confused. Could I have an explanation?" The entire easy "I statement" format follows.
Directions: Fill in the blanks with the details of your situation and what you want to communicate. Avoid the word “you” as much as possible, except in your direct request part.
I understand ___________________
I Feel (Feeling Word)________
When I ___________________
Would you ____(Request)____
I will __________________________
Here’s an example: “I understand that you have worked all day and had to run errands for me today after work. I feel relieved when I don’t have to worry about those things when I come from work, because I like to start dinner right away. Would you help me again on Friday with a couple things, and I will have dinner ready for you and the kids when you get home.”
Keep in mind that this is a difficult habit to develop in your language, and will likely feel unnatural. Usually it takes people several seconds to create these messages, and that is not the rate at which a real conversation goes. Ultimately, you want it to sound natural with more practice. You also want to consider who you are talking to: age, location, gender, position, etc. and add some common language that you would normally use to sound more natural. Your body language must also match the content of your intended message.
Over time you can develop this as a skill you can “pull out” and use when you need it. Hopefully, as you set boundaries and accept responsibility for yourself, you will need this skill less and less. Others around you may start to view you differently and eventually they may become more assertive themselves.
Assertive Message Examples
These are examples of phrases that are commonly used as assertive messages. Build these statements and questions into your normal vocabulary to quickly and efficiently show assertiveness toward others. Many of these are to help you problem solve, while others are to set limits with other. Remember that you have the right to say no to anyone about anything, but everyone else has the right to say no to you for anything also. If you can understand those boundaries, then these assertive messages become even more natural.
Limit Setting Assertive Messages
“Thank you for your advice, I’ll take that into consideration.” “I have not decided yet, but I can let you know when I do.” “I have the right to change my mind.” “I love you too much to fight with you in this way.”
Asserting a Concern
“Could I talk to you about something that is bothering me?” “I have something that I would like to talk to you about. When would be a good time to talk?” “I feel hurt when I am talked down to because it is disrespectful.” “I would like to talk about this at another time.” “I will talk to you about this when we have both calmed down.” “I understand you can’t give me exact numbers, but could you give me an estimate of the total cost and when you think the work might be done?”
“Although I understand your perspective, I disagree with your decision.” “Is there someone else I could talk to who might be able to better help me with my request?” “I will have no other choice than to get someone else involved if I do not receive a response.” “I will not put up with abuse.” “I will protect myself and my rights if something like this ever happens again.”
Asserting your Rights and Expressing Your Limits
“I would like you to take responsibility for yourself and your own actions.” “I will not accept responsibility for your actions.” “Is there anything I can do to help you in this situation?” “I am disappointed in this outcome.”
Asking for Clarity and Being Honest
“Could you tell me exactly what it is that you would like for me to do?” “Are you telling me this to be helpful or to be hurtful?” “No, I am not busy, but I would like to keep it that way.”
Solving Problems Assertively
“Would you like some help?” “Do you have a request?” “Do you have a suggestion?” “Would you help me?” “I am sorry, how can I make this situation right?”