Art of Communication: Eliseo’s Story

Oregon Department of Corrections’ institutions across the state. Developed by Chaplain Trime Persinger at Snake River Correctional Institution (SRCI), the course teaches AICs how to build positive relationships and manage conflict situations through everyday conversations. This post is part of a series which aims to share the stories of AICs who have been impacted by the program.

Below, AIC Eliseo Salinas uses the tools he learned in the program to demonstrate his patience and understanding. AIC Salinas shared his experience with Trime Persinger, who wrote it down as follows:

Melvin and I work as orderlies in Central Medical. Ms. B. is a staff member with whom I had a good working relationship.

One day Melvin and I were asked by another staff member to vacuum her office. When we went into the closet to get the vacuum cleaner, Ms. B. saw us and said, “You can’t be in there without staff supervision.” I said, “Sorry, we didn’t know.”

With Ms. B. standing there I said to Melvin, “Mr. Turner (another orderly) works over here and I’ve seen him go into the closet without permission.”

Ms. B.: “No, Mr. Turner always has permission before he goes in there.”

Me: “But I’ve seen Mr. Turner….”

Ms. B.: “No. He always has permission.” She looked upset.

I didn’t say anything. We finished cleaning and put the vacuum cleaner back with permission from staff.

Ms. B. came up to me and said that she needed to talk to me. She said, “I’m sending you back to your cell to think about how to properly respond to staff and to think about how you handled that situation. You are not fired from your job, you are just being sent back to your cell.”

Me: “I apologize. It was not my intention to argue with you. I was just trying to share that I have seen Mr. Turner go in there without permission. It’s not to say that he’s not asking for permission. I’m just not seeing it. I’m grateful that you said something because I don’t want to get in trouble for doing this in the future.”

Ms. B.: “I’m still sending you home. I still want you to think about this. You can come back to work tomorrow.”

Me: “I respect what you say.”

I went back to my cell. I was not happy and was stewing all day. I said to myself, “She’s not very nice. She’s not a nice person. We used to get along fine. What happened?”

After I started to calm down I said to myself, “I don’t know what type of morning she had before she ran into us.” I realized that I could have listened silently. I thought about the fact that she had not fired me.

I went back to work the next day. It seemed that Ms. B. wasn’t as friendly to me as she had been before. She didn’t come and ask me for help like she had been doing. I wondered if I had hurt her feelings.

I decided to speak with her and rehearsed what I wanted to say over and over. A couple of weeks went by. One day, I asked her if she had a moment when I could speak with her regarding the incident with the vacuum closet. She said OK.

Me: “I know that I brought up Mr. Turner not having permission. Essentially, that was me pushing blame onto Mr. Turner for being in there. I know that I am the one who made the choice to go in there and I understand it was my fault. I want to apologize to you for that.”

Ms. B.: “Thank you for apologizing.”

Me: “I also wanted to thank you for giving me the opportunity to think about it instead of sending me to the hole or firing me for being argumentative and disrespectful.”

Ms. B.: “I wouldn’t have done that. I have already forgotten about it.”

Me: “I had not forgotten about it. I’ve been bothered by the outcome. I respect you and the work that you do. I didn’t want there to be bad feelings between us.”

Ms. B.: “Thank you. That means a lot.”

Me: “Thank you.”

We went our separate ways. Since then, she has been more pleasant to me. It’s getting back to where it was between us before.