Saturday, July 25, 2015

Complete Message / Complete Apology

In the corner of my classroom, I have two small posters. One lists the parts of a Complete Message. The other lists the parts of a Complete Apology.

Early in the year, I thoroughly teach my class what each of these mean. Then, when there is a conflict between students, I am able to send them to that corner of the room for a bit of privacy and time, with these reminders of how to rebuild their relationship.

It has met with great success, and brings greater relational health to my classroom. It is also beginning to have an impact on the adults at my school site. 

Here is an explanation of both.

Complete Message
1. When you…

2. I felt…

3. I thought…

4. I need…

1. When you…
         This is a statement of fact. Describe the situation as impartially as possible. No judgements about motive, intentions, or hidden agendas.
If “Presuming Positive Intentions” may be difficult, but at least try to “Presume NEUTRAL Intentions”.

2. I felt…
3. I thought… (These could be in either order: “I thought”, then “I felt”)
         Own your own feelings and thoughts. No “you made me feel…”. Just a description of what you experienced. Since these thoughts and feelings occurred “when you…”, the suggestion is that the event played a large part in those thoughts and feelings.
         This stage might be tricky. “I felt that you…” might not be received well. You’ve lapsed into accusation at this point.

4. I need…
         Without this piece, the listener to this “complete message” might wonder, “What’s the point?” Perhaps you’ll need an apology, or some discussion about how things could be better next time. Perhaps there’s a way that things could be repaired. This step is where you describe what you think could help heal the relationship.



Complete Apology
1. I’m sorry…

2. That I…

3. because________.

4. Here’s how things will be different next time.

1. I’m sorry…
         Or, “sorry.” This is where we DON'T want students to stop. Adults don’t want to hear this word alone, either. By itself, this is pointless and without real meaning.

2. That I…
         Mention exactly what you did that caused hurt. It will be meaningful to hear you own your actions.
         Don’t say “I’m sorry that you felt hurt…” This might be perceived as avoiding responsibility, and will not be very meaningful.

3. because________.
         You need to mention why this was not OK for you to do. What’s wrong with what you did? This will be extremely meaningful to hear.

4. Here’s how things will be different next time.

         Most of the time, the person being apologized to needs to know that you won’t do it again. Here is an opportunity to explain what you will try to do differently next time.








Many thanks for teaching me about these ideas goes to:
Ron Claassen, from the Center for Peacemaking and Conflict Studies at Fresno Pacific University
and
Delores Friesen, PhD, Profesor Emerita of Pastoral Counseling at Fresno Pacific University

Thanks to Edutopia for stimulating the conversation, which prompted me to write this up as a blog post! 

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