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Powerful Words

Learning to communicate well is important in building healthy relationships.

Communication is about choosing words carefully and paying attention to how we say the words.

Hurtful words can include bullying, gossip, mean texts and Snapchats, and inappropriate Facebook postings.

Words have power. They can build us up or tear us down.

"I" Messages

When we disagree with someone, we often send a “ you” message. “ You” messages usually come off as putdowns. Putdowns may lead to more putdowns. What happens when you feel blamed, accused or attacked with a “ you” statement? You may try to defend yourself. Or, you may walk away and stop communicating with that person.

Have you heard of “I” messages? “I” messages help to share either positive or negative emotions. A good way to send these “I” messages is:

Person talking into a can with string attached
  • When (describe action), I feel (describe feeling) because (describe reason)."

For example:

  • When you are on time, I feel I can play better because I’m not so rushed in getting to ball practice.”

In a tense situation, “I” statements help. The other person is less likely to feel attacked when you state how you feel about an action. “I” messages show that you take responsibility for your feelings and don’t blame them on the other person.

Turn a “you” message like this:

  • "You always embarrass me."
into an “I” message:
  • "When you tell those same jokes, I feel embarrassed because not everyone thinks they’re funny."

Remember, there is power in our word choices and how we say them!

Let’s create a Happy Gram with a helpful and encouraging message for someone in your life.

Happy Gram Activity Supplies

Here’s what you will need to create a Happy Gram:

  • Paper
  • Pencil or Pen
  • Envelope
  • Craft supplies (optional) - markers, crayons, colored pencils, stencils, stickers, glitter, glue, scissors
  • Your imagination

Activity Steps

youth holding up a handmade card that says "You are amazing"
  1. Think about someone in your life who you want to send a helpful and encouraging message.
  2. Fold the paper to into a card shape and write a message to that person.
  3. Decorate your card or happy gram with the supplies you have available.
  4. Work with your parents or guardians to determine how to get your happy gram to the person. Maybe you can hand it to them in person or maybe you will need to put it in the mail.
  5. Congratulations on making a happy gram!

Let’s Talk About It

  • How do you feel when you receive helpful and encouraging words?
  • How do you feel when you share helpful and encouraging words to others?
  • We can say the same words to different people and in different ways. In what ways can the same words send a different message?
  • When we disagree with someone, we often send a “you” message. “You” messages usually come off as putdowns. Putdowns may lead to more putdowns. What happens when you feel blamed, accused or attacked with a “you” statement?

Submit Your Activity

cartoon hearts, squiggly lines, flying WV, and 4-H Clover

With the help from a parent or guardian, take a picture of your completed Happy Gram. Submit your picture below, along with your answers to the questions.

West Virginia youth of 4-H age* who answer the Powerful questions will receive a 1.5" square vinyl 4-H sticker, while supplies last. There will be six activities in total, so make sure to collect all of the stickers!

The random prize winner was Payton from Cabell County. She received $25 in Shop4H merchandise.

*Participants must have turned five years old by June 30, 2021 and have not yet turned 22 years old.

The 2021 State 4-H Health Officer program and activities are funded by the William Lewis and Marie L. Campbell 4-H Fund.

Learn more about the 2021 West Virginia 4-H Health Officer topic - Healthy Relationships.