A couple weeks ago, I wrote about the need that some people have to say, “I’m sorry.” I don’t think we should automatically apologize or expect an apology when there’s been a miscommunication. Now, I’m not saying that apologizing is a bad thing nor am I advocating for not taking responsibility or apologizing when we’ve clearly done something wrong. However, in our society, we often feel that we are bad or wrong when really we’ve just been human. I want to advocate for helping people change without having to demand that they apologize. Then when they do apologize, they can do it with respect and compassion. No one should have to feel bad about themselves.
I have a student who blew up out of anger at another student. It went like this:
Student A: “I can’t hear. Will you please shut up?”
Student B: “Why don’t you move to the front of the class if you can’t hear?”
Student A: “Why don’t you just keep your mouth shut and have a little respect?”
When I intervened they both demanded that the other apologize. I asked them to wait a minute and used some Non-violent communication on them. Here’s what I said: “Student B, when you are talking in class, I feel disrespected because I’m trying to make sure you all understand how to do this, and when you’re talking no one can hear me. So, would you please not talk when I’m trying to explain something to you? Student A, when you yell at Student B, I feel frustrated because I need to have you all respecting each other in class. Could you please not yell at the other students?”
They both then apologized to each other, but they didn’t do it because anyone demanded it of them. They didn’t do it because they felt anyone was wrong or deserved to be punished. They apologized because they both realized that they had let their anger take over, and they realized they could have handled the situation better.
When we are angry, it’s like a fire alarm. The alarm tells us something is wrong with our thinking about someone or something. The anger is telling us that we have become disconnected. Using non-violent communication, reconnects us to our true nature which is compassion. From the place of compassion we can state our needs and make requests without ever judging, blaming or making someone wrong.