My co-partner in the International Society for the Study of Apologies, Nell Minow, sent me an article about how to apologize well. There are always a bunch of these kinds of columns, many of them quite thoughtful, but I liked this one for a different reason.
Yes, it gives its explanation of the four-steps that make a good apology, but then it veers off in another direction. The piece is written by a fifth-grade school teacher who actually taught "how to apologize" in class and then would give assignments. The article describes what happened and comes up with some nice surprises -- like when she asked about reviewing an apology lesson, meaning for it to have been outside the class at home or in the students' daily lives, but what followed turned into something else, an apology-fest within the classroom.
(I'd be happy to give credit to the teacher's name, but can't find it anywhere. It seems to be written under the blog name of "Cuppacocoa."
The whole idea for the classes began from a comment made at a teaching seminar, that sparked an idea. The teachers says that "I went back to my classroom and got some stiff cardboard and wrote the prompts clearly, labeling the poster, 'How to Say Sorry.' The next afternoon, I talked with the children about apologizing properly. We went over the importance of tone of voice and body language; when I used my brattiest voice and spat out, 'Well FINE then, SOR-RY!' they all laughed, because the insincerity was so obvious and the scene so familiar. I demonstrated the importance of body language, crossing my arms and rolling my eyes to the side as I mumbled, 'Sorry.' When I asked if it seemed like I meant it, they all gleefully cried out 'NOOOO!!!' in unison. I did a few more impressions of pathetic “sorries,” and then we got down to business. I shared with them that apologies were pointless and meaningless if people didn’t feel like the offender meant it, and if the offender didn’t actually plan to change in the future."'
You can read the article here. It's worth reading the whole thing, but if you're up to speed on what makes a good apology, you can just jump past her four points to the start of her classroom tale. I found it very interesting.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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