Person 1: Speaker / Sender
1. Recognize to yourself that you’ve done something that needs to be repaired. This step is an internal process, for you to prepare yourself to speak with the other person. Be honest with yourself about the fact that you did something that was hurtful to someone else. Acknowledge that this relationship is important to you and that you want to find the courage to repair what happened. Recognize that you are human and make mistakes and that you are still a good person. If you begin to feel defensive or shame during this process, pause and come back to this step as needed.
4. Take in that the other person cares about the impact their actions had on you. Resist any urges to attack, retaliate or blame now that the other person is listening.Yes, you got it.”
“That’s not quite it, it was more like this______”
3. State what you did, declare that you broke an agreement, what the agreement was, and how you broke it. Be specific. Don’t explain or justify why you broke it, and resist any impulses to blame the other person.
“I said that I would _____ and I didn’t. Instead I_____.”
“We planned that___ and I did something different___."
3. Acknowledge the courage it took to be honest about what happened and to come to you to repair it.
“I appreciate you bringing this up so we can work through it.”
“Thank you for noticing that you did that.”
8. Requests amends, own your unmet needs by asking for specific things from yourself and your partner.
“Would you be willing to…”
“What I’d like instead is...”
“What I hope for around this…”
“What’s missing for me is…”
2. Set context and get consent for the conversation:
“I would like to talk with you about _____. I want to explore this because (benefit I’d like to get and what I imagine they could gain) ______. Is now a good time?”
(For this step, speaker becomes listener)
5. Receive what the other person is saying with curiosity and an open mind. Accept the other person’s experience as it is without believing it should be different. Mirror without adding additional content or interpretations. Demonstrate that you’re listening and seeking to understand.
“What I hear you saying is…”
“Did I get that?”
“Tell me about…?”
“Is there more?”
Next summarize what you heard. “Let me see if I got it all___. Is that it?”
Next validate the other person “What makes sense to me about what you said is_____.”
Next empathize “Given all that I imagine you might feel (mad, scared, hurt, etc.)… is that right?"
7. Share what you’ve learned and how you’ll avoid repeating this situation as a result. Resist the urge to make promises you can’t keep.
“What I’m understanding from this is ________ and next time I find myself in this situation, I will________”
“What I’ve learned is ________ and what I’ll do differently in the future is________”
6. Take in the apology.
“Thank you for hearing me and acknowledging the impact this had on me.”
Person 2: Listener / Receiver
1. Recognize to yourself that something hurtful happened in your relationship. Don’t minimize your feelings. Also don’t fuel the fire by recalling past hurts or talking with other people who will fan the flames. Instead, acknowledge your hurt to yourself and let yourself feel your feelings. On your own, allow yourself to move the energy and express your experience through movement, art, or sound. Focus on your values, what kind of relationship you want to have and how you can take responsibility for yourself in this situation.
6. Express regret for what you did.
“I’m sorry I did that, the last thing I want is for you to feel ______”
“I’m sorry, I don’t want ________ for you”
7. Share what you’ve learned too. Reflect on how you contributed to the situation and what you might do differently next time for a better outcome.
“What’s clearer to me now is _______ and next time I’d like to do ________ differently.
10. Receive touch. Check with yourself if you’re wanting to be touched right now. If not, let the other person know when it’s a good time. If so, help them to get the location and pressure right so that their touch feels good to you. Breathe into the touch to take in their support.
2. Check inside yourself for willingness. If you’re not ready right now ask yourself what you might need in order to be willing and reflect on what you could gain from the conversation.
“Yes, let’s talk now.” (Or suggest a time in the near future)
10. Touch if your relationship has a history of safe supportive touch and you want to, you can offer to hold the other person’s hand or place a hand on the part of their body that holds the emotions from the event.
9. Respond to requests. Be creative and look for ways to get underlying needs met for both of you. If you need more time or to be heard first, set a timeline to come back to the requests.
9. Switch roles until both people have taken responsibility, been heard about impact, and made amends for their part in the situation. Remember that both people almost always contribute in some way to a broken agreement.
8. Make amends, offer to make things better. Suggest an act of care to rebalance the relationship.
“Would you like me to _______?”
“Would ___ make it up to you?”
“Is there anything I can do to make things better?”
4. Acknowledge the impact. Guess about the other person’s experience and ask them to share it. Guess about their body sensations, emotions, impulses, meaning-making, values, or patterns from their past. Don’t be attached to your guesses being right, instead demonstrate that you can imagine being in their shoes. Remember they are the expert on their own experience. Remind yourself that this is an opportunity to connect and understand the other person’s world.
“When I_____, I imagine that you felt_____. I’m guessing that it reminded you of_____ from your past, does that capture some of it?”
“I know that you wanted_____. And instead you got_____ from me. Did you feel_____?"
(For this step, listener becomes speaker)
5. Share more about the impact without blame or criticism. Allow your words, voice, and body to be congruent with what you’re expressing. Name body sensations (tightening, heaviness, relaxation, etc.), core feelings (anger, fear, sadness, joy, etc.), impulses, images, what this reminds you of from the past, patterns in your yourself or your relationship. Completing three or more of the sentences below can help you stay on track. Share a little at a time and allow the other person to mirror and understand you.
“The story I am making up about this is…”
“I imagine this means…”
“Part of me thinks that…”
“When that happens I feel…”
“When I think about this my body wants to…”
“What hurts the most about this is…”
“What I’m most afraid of is…”
“In this situation I protect myself by…”
“What this reminds me of from my childhood is…”
“The challenge I’m finding about this is…”
“This feels important to me because…”
“What I’m learning about myself from this is…”
“Something I haven’t told you yet is…”
“If I could to do it over again, I would…”
“One thing I could do to improve the situation is…”
Dialogue process to repair and apologize for broken agreements (download these repair steps as a PDF)