people are happier . . . and more likely to make positive changes when those in authority do things with them, rather than to them or for them . . .
I have been so fortunate. To get to do Restorative Justice as a full-time job, provides so many opportunities. I’m the executive director, and I provide a great deal of direct service. I’ve been in prisons, classrooms, churches, community centers, people’s homes, coffee shops, parking lots and had thousands of conversations about repairing harm, restoring connections and building community. If the ask is to do a Circle, my answer is always yes. I do Restorative Justice Victim-Offender Dialogue, Restorative Justice Circles, offer trainings and workshops. From the seemingly silly to the most serious of offenses, I’ve been offering and facilitating Restorative Justice full-time for 8 years now.
I over commit stretch myself thin, and work long hours. That has forced me to grow in areas and at the same time, taught me how to get this work done effectively and efficiently. I lead with my heart. You have to, if you’re doing Restorative Justice work, you have to use your heart when connecting with people working WITH them for Restorative Justice.
The quote above uses the phrase “when those in authority” the first thing I do is to erase any authority, I try to approach people human to human, heart to heart. This means being accepting, understanding, compassionate. The very language used can contribute greatly to equal dignity and worth. WITH as a human being, is much for effective that WITH as my job.
Imagine you love hot fudge sundae’s, and your hungry at the moment. What if someone tells you, you will be forced to eat one. Probably doesn’t feel very good, despite the fact you like sundae’s and one would taste good. I overheard this “the talking piece forces you to listen”. I would say, Circle provides the opportunity to listen without interruption. Very few like to be forced to do anything. The speaker meant well in explaining Circle like this, the mark was missed in explaining how to listen with another.
I try not to use words that imply power over or authority. I don’t use the word “rules” and I even avoid “guidelines”, I really explain the behavior that works best. I “invite”, “offer”, “provide”, working to align with the core inner part of individuals.
Staying with curiosity is also a great place to be with, to explore and expand people preparing to come together in Restorative Justice dialogue. A very angry approach is sometimes the starting point, the victim might want and demand the offender do or be a certain way. This can be tricky, the facilitator has no control over this. Some victims see what they have already decided to see, or what they experienced in the court process. It takes listening and exploring to prepare. For example when a victim wants a topic in the dialogue that moves more towards blaming, shaming and is less about healing, a facilitators best move is to go with the victim. This means respectful questions and inquiry to find the need the victim is trying to respond to. Finding the inner need, and exploring ways it can be met, in the dialogue, by the victim is preparation work WITH a victim. This exploring and curiosity can also bring pathways in the brain about how it might be when the dialogue happens, what might happen.
A survivor recently realized, that if she saw remorse, she would probably hug the other person and share “this is something we will all have to get through, together”. I almost choked up hearing this, she almost cried saying it. That statement was the best “WITH” a facilitator could hope for between and victim and offender.