The Clean Up Message and the I Message


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I’m reading a school handbook for new Kindergarten students and came across a page on the “I Message”. That, I know what it is. It’s when you go “I FEEL… BLAH… WHEN YOU… BLAH.” That prevents you from blaming the other person and makes you take responsibility for your own feelings. For example, “I feel like you’re being a jerk when you’re acting so jerky.”

Just kidding!

So, I’d never heard of the Clean-Up statement before, but it looks very useful and good.

The Clean-Up
1) I KNOW that I …
2) I APOLOGIZE.
3) What can I do to MAKE IT RIGHT?
4) I will DO MY BEST to…
5) (Optional) Will you FORGIVE me?

I know quite a few grownups who could stand to learn that basic formula! It’s something I’ve learned from listening to meetings and thinking about group dynamics, and from feminist and anti-racist activist stuff.

I should remember it more often myself, and make less explanations & excuses.

I think it’s great that schools are teaching this kind of skill and such a range of emotional vocabulary.

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7 Responses to The Clean Up Message and the I Message

  1. Ashley says:

    I agree! Will this help get them through the Middle School years?

  2. Daisy says:

    I-messages have been handy in working with type A personalities who tend to get defensive. I teach them to kids, too, but honestly – adults need them even more.

  3. Liz says:

    Oh Daisy I so agree and would go even further with it… it's something adults need to be able to say to children! How rare is it to hear a sincere apology from a grownup to a kid!

  4. BerkeleyBecca says:

    Over and over again, I wish that I was taught basic emotional intelligence as a kid. Some of us need that stuff explained to us, very slowly, and more than once.

  5. Liz Ditz says:

    Liz, I learned it as "Open The Front Door In" — outlined here.

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