Being present during Circle Keeping, 5 tips.

What does being present mean for you when you facilitate Restorative Justice Peacemaking Circles? 

I am re-starting my work in the world of Restorative Justice.  I stepped away to be present in my

new marriage and for the family ranch.  My presence to those two things resulted in our marriage heading for a 3 year anniversary and Miner Ranch expanding to include sheep, a guard dog and donkey.  The presence I made in my life for those two things Hubs & Ranch, developed my presence for Peacemaking Circles.

Marriage is an intimate relationship, and it requires communication, conflict resolution, patience and all sorts of good things to make it good.  One the ranch side of developing presence I was dealing with prey animals (horses and sheep).  They have to sense your energy to survive.  To have to be calm and in harmony for them to allow you to touch them, keep them calm and even assist with the delivery of  a new lamb if needed.  How does this relate to being present in a Peacemaking Circle?

You have to have the fluidness of responding to what is happening in the Circle, while at the same time you hold the knowledge of what to do.  I have recently started some equine related education and training, and this is from our training materials, created by Veronica Lac:

There is so much I love about this paragraph.  It is written in the context of doing equine facilitated learning sessions, and it speaks beautifully to being present in Circle.

At a recent training, I did a Circle with youth, to model for the teachers, how an actual Circle would look.  In the debriefing process someone pointed out how the group observing laughed (appropriately) at something the young person said.  At the same time, I was observed to remain listening.  This is being present.

My 5 tips for being more present in Circle:

  • practice, be present for the barista making your coffee, be present to yourself at a stop light, be present to your coworker at lunch.
  • work on your inner “harmony”,  are you able to “be” in Circle, and not worry about doing it right, forgetting the next question, wondering if you are being judged.  It takes practice.
  • get the ‘outline’ for Circle memorized, once you know it, you can be more at ease.  I teach a “rail road crossing” metaphor.  If the link to that post doesn’t show up by 10/2/18 remind me.
  • Use the 4 phases: Getting Acquainted – Building Relationships-Addressing Issues – Taking Actions.
  • Review the 7 core principles of Peacemaking Circles, here.

Restorative Justice Circles talking or transformation, using key elements for change.

St. Croix Valley Restorative Justice Program (www.scvrjp.org) has been doing 100’s of Circles a year, since 2006.  In that time we have successfully placed topics in the center of the Circle.  We have consistently used a structure, based on the work of Kay Pranis (more posts referencing Kay).  The key elements of a Restorative Justice Circles, have been featured in two books by Kay, the Little Book of Circle Process and Peacemaking Circles from Crime to Community.

These Circle experience spans school settings, severe crime and significant loss, to staff meetings structured with Circle and our many Circles held to address public health issues in our community.  Highlighted in this post, are the rationale and reasons for using the key elements.  Talking Circles provide connection and potential to repair harm.  To transform the way people see themselves and others in connection to community and to transform behavior instantly, try the Restorative Justice Peacemaking Circle Elements, as described here.

A few of the commonly skipped or overlooked Key Elements:  Consensus to Values, 4 Stages.  A Restorative Justice Peacemaking Circle is more than just using a talking piece.

Consensus to Values This aspect of Circle is more than just having people write on a paper plate.  This aspect is also designed to pull people together in a community that has decided how they will relate to each other.  The first steps of “community” if not geography, would be common interests.  A specific pass of the talking piece asking people to reflect on the values in the center, as part of the way of being together, deepens the connection before exploring topics, facing challenges or repairing harm.

4 Stages  (I am assuming you know these, there are many posts here highlighting) When we take time to do some questions, before the deeper conversation, or intention of the Circle, we are reminding people that we can make important connections by caring and learning about each other.  The simple content provides a context for common likes, it builds connection.  Some of my favorites lately have been to ask people about the next big accomplishment.  Fun results when I asked another training group to share 3 things about their shoes.

The final part when using the 4 stages, is to give opportunity for people in the Circle to identify their “take aways” or reflections on the experience.  This serves for people to identify quickly and immediately the benefit of the experience.  Like speaking to the Center in Circle promotes self – agency, so does speaking to your experience at the end of the Circle.  The use of the last phase helps us know we did good work together, it is another opportunity to allow people to share from the wise-centered part of who they are.  When doing Circles around trauma or emotionally heavy topics, it allows people to  prepare for returning to the un-structured everyday communication styles.

When you do more in Circle, than just employe a talking piece, you are creating space for safety.  Safety promotes vulnerability, vulnerability becomes a responsibility (tweet me) and a responsible keeper uses that for the greater good of  all in Circle.  Using the stages show respect and places the power, in each person and the Center of the Circle.

Key Elements Restorative Justice Circle

Restorative Justice Peacemaking Circle Advanced Training

Please join us in River Falls, Wisconsin in October.  On the 23rd and 24th, an advanced practice, School-Based Restorative Justice Circle Training will be held.  The two-day training will feature discussion, reflections and ideas for developing effective Keeping skills and for using Circles in a range of applications.  The 2nd will feature co-trainer Catherine Cranston, who have been using Circles since 2006.

Seats are limited, and the registration deadline is October 3.

Please see the flyer for more details and the registration form: Adv Circle Training Oct 2014

 

There is also a Circle Training at SCVRJP on October 9 & 10.  www.scvrjp.org.

If your school would like to host this training please contact me!

Circle Keeping, brain science connections.

St. Croix Valley Restorative Justice Program (SCVRJP) has delivered 1,000’s of Circles and trained 100’s of people in Restorative Justice Peacemaking Circle process.  Circles in kindergarten classrooms, museums, prisons, college campus, fire departments, churches and many at the Restorative Justice Center.

As our program demands grown, the need to teach people the art of Circle keeping has grown.  As a non-profit working alongside criminal justice systems, the need to be “evidence-based” is crucial.  Having great outcomes, it is important to maintain the success.  These means teaching others how to do powerful, meaningful, effective Circle keeping.  I have focused on this for years.  The increased demand in training requests, partnered with the requests to do a two-day training in half-a-day has caused me to be analytical in the delivery of quality training, effective skills and targeted strategies for Circle keeping.

At a recent training I shared the technique of contracting or expanding my explanation of Restorative Justice and Circle.  In the very beginning before the opening reading, when starting I suggest doing this.  A training participant asked me more about what I meant.  I explained speaking longer or shorter, and monitoring the emotional climate.  I was asked again what I meant.  I realized I had developed my “feeling” for it.  My intuition had developed from doing Circles so often.  The second nature of Circle keeping is living and expresing the values of Restorative Justice.

Right then in the training session, I started explaining what that meant.  I talked about body posture of others, eye contact, how I was feeling.  What are the clues to “knowing” when we are ready to start Circle.  I used words like: trust, calm, connection.  Today I found what it is by brain science!

A HUGE ah-ha!  In reading Words Can Change your Brain, by Andrew Newberg and Mark Robert Waldman, I noted the 12 Strategies of Compassionate Communication and powerful and making a TON of sense in the context of Restorative Justice.  I had to see if I could find a handout for this afternoons training.  It led me to learning the neural resonance also called neural coupling is a speaker-listener brain based connection!  THAT is the element to use when monitoring your Circle for emotional climate!

CompassCommunication

Creating Restorative Justice Peacemaking Circles how and why the relationship value question matters.

In Restorative Justice Peacemaking Circle process, and every Circle facilitated by SCVRJP, we identify relationship values at the first round with the talking piece.This is extremely important and requires an understanding of how and why that is so important.  A teachable lesson emerged recently and can demonstrate why framing the question is so important.

Technique & How  

1) Ask people to identify a relationship. Hand out paper plates

2) Ask them to identify something really important in that relationship.  Avoid using the word “value”, you are going to go behind the social mask, by asking this indirectly.  Suggest what makes the relationship great, without it, it would not be the same.

3)Handout markers, asking them to write the word about that relationship on the plate.  Remind them of the non-judgmental context, lots of things make great relationships, to just pick one for today.  Getting again behind their own judgments or preparing what they think they “should” say.

4)Role model, go first, start the talking piece, place plates in the center.

Why

1) Brain connections – engage people in thoughts of loved ones stimulates brain chemicals to promote openness.

2)Indirect ask – – we all want to fit in and belong, we use social masks, our answer change if we are with our friends or our parents friends.  That’s good because that creates accountability and social norms.  We want to get to the heart of people in Circle, and using the approach reaches a more genuine context.

3) Relationships matter – asking about a specific relationship that the person has, reinforces the importance of relationships and brings in dialogue relvant to what really motivates our behaviors.

4)Topic matter is comfortable – everyone can easily share about someone they have a relationship with.  This promotes bonding and a successful first round with the talking piece.

Lesson

It was observed in Circle that the relationship/values questions was framed as “someone you find inspiring”.  Participants picked figures like Gandhi, very few people have a personal relationship with Gandhi, so this question eliminates the personal context of who and what is important in personal relationships.  The “someone” rather than a relationship leaves out the discussion of disclosing who is important to us.  By a de-personalized question, people can social mask it easier and pick a figure, vs an actual relationship.  The cross pollination of discovering others values on relationship values is lost with the question framed this way.  The question could still be utilized in Circle, however it might not be the most effective and developing values that the Circle can then commit to use for the rest of the process.

How key elements of a Restorative Justice Peacemaking Circle create more than conversation.

Circles are so simple, yet so complex.  I’ve been told I make it look easy, that ease comes from a deep committment to honor the process and the key elements of Restorative Justice Circles.  Here are a few of the elements and how utilizing them impacts the process, creating a deeper container a richer experience, and has people quickly moving to a place of emotional safety.

The opening/closing.  I have a 3 inch 3 ring binder bursting with poems, readings and even an obituary.  When you introduce this element you are sharing how Circle is different from our every day conversation, that sets a tone.  The reading also provides one voice.  The one reading, is the one speaking, at that time.  People know that when someone is reading to a group, the thing to do is to listen.  The reading creates an opportunity for the group (without knowing it) to do one of the things that makes Circle so successful (speak one at a time).  When you get to a place of “one voice”, it is actually creating a collective energy of ‘one-ness’.  Sound corny, but in that space you are having more than a conversation.  This is a monitoring of the emotional climate (key Keeper skill) and when you have that spot reached, you have a deeper well.

Commitment to the Values.  Crucial.  Absolutely crucial.  This sets the agenda and the tone for how we are going to relate to each other.  Doing the values round as the first round, sets a tone, and the commitment to those values, sets and ground that the Center of the Circle, has a capital C.  It is an easy place to find consensus, to talk about consensus.  The other thing it does is give chance for a one-word or short sentence response.  Quickly moving the Talking Piece around the Circle.  Once every voice is heard, people have a sense of belonging, of value.  They have given a vote on how they are willing to proceed.  If I have a delicate topic or important conversation, I always ask “can I talk to you” or “do you have time right now”.  This is a small but very influential relationship building technique.

Passing the Talking Piece Around the Circle.  I think the Keeper was trying to point out use of the talking piece, when someone was blurting she asked if they needed it, the person said yes.  It started a “popcorn” style, going across the Circle, bouncing around.  Many of us were not in that particular stream of conversation.  From my seat, it felt as if the individuals doing the talking had taken a bit of control of the process.  When the Keeper started to engage the piece going all the way around, it felt more equal.  Equality, sitting equal distance from the Center, equal opportunity with the talking piece.  These physical actions influence our emotions, Spirit and thoughts.

Keeper as model to responses.  I often go first, to show or demonstrate and to set the tone.  Just offering “who wants to start” creates the extroverts going first.  You have lost the chance to influence the emotional content, level or sharing and duration of explanation you are seeking.  Sometimes going last to summarize is important.  By going first you can also restate the question at the end of your sharing.  Helpful for the person to your left or right.  (I go both ways, another blog post).

Relationship Building.  You can’t NOT be in relationship, and relationships are bi-lateral.  Kindness builds a relationship.  I often mention to the person on my left, “you have a big job, you’ll be going first” or I engage in talk that connects.  Asking people safe questions to start and small talk shows you care.  We specifically place volunteers in the Circle as people are starting with the task to do relationship-building.  It means treating people with the utmost non-judgement.  If someone hands you a pen, they are trying to be helpful, take it.  Hand it back later when it is needed.  People can be anxious or nervous, do what you can to be kind, helpful, non-judgemental, supportive.  Be as safe as a Circle, engage values in every way you can. (click to Tweet).

Developing Restorative Justice Circle Intuition.

The first step is to gain knowledge, the ‘how to’ of a Restorative Justice Circle.  Then you develop experience, those experiences lend to your understanding and ability to predict what happens.  Pour in some passion, some real care and authenticity to your work and you’ll develop an effective style of Circle Keeping.  That blends to provide Circle intuition.

A few knowledge pieces:

  1. It is good to know, the four stages of Circle.  How to move between the four, and what the philosophical rational is behind each stage.
  2. Members in Circle reflect your relationship.  Build connections as soon as you can with those in Circle.  This can happen in pre-conference (preparation meetings) or as you engage people coming to the session.
  3. Each Circle has something to offer you as a lesson.  The Circle is the power, and in that the wisdom.  Create safety, and people will share.

A bit about passion:

From the website:  http://www.chforum.org/library/choice6.shtml
From the website: http://www.chforum.org/library/choice6.shtml
  1. Being passionate, is bringing your special relationship to Circle/Restorative Justice.  Don’t leave what you find of value about Circles or your own values outside the Circle.
  2. People respond to genuine and authentic individuals, own your passion, and allow others the freedom and space to own theirs.  I was working with an experienced group, I shared that I told a reporter I was a Circle-freak, some else shared being a Circle-addict.  I’ve heard Circle-hog, as an apology for always suggesting Circle.

Experience:

  1. Nothing substitutes for experience.  You can read about riding a bike, or swimming, nothing like the experience.  It is not just the experience of keeping, the experience of participating in Circle.  Find places to be in Circle.
  2. Watch keepers, develop outlines, find a mentor, ask questions about the style and use of questions and techniques.  An experienced facilitator will make decisions and guide a process for a reason.
  3. Create your own experiences if needed.  I had a teen Circle for my daughter and few others, that was enough to give me two extra experiences a month.  For a short time, I hosted ‘New Moon’ Circles, to give space to talk about values.  Use a Circle demonstration when going to give an explanation of Restorative Justice.

Intuition is developed when you become more natural.  Intuition is the deep inner knowing.  Restorative Justice Circle intuition allows a keeper to move confidently.  Consider the experience of each and every person in Circle.  Seek to balance the needs of each person.  When someone is sharing, observe how that is changing or impacting the emotional climate in the room.

When keepong, you have a general sense and an idea of where the Circle will go, you don’t control the outcomes for each individual.  This balance requires an intuition about Circles.  The more you develop knowledge, passion, experience and intuition, the more you will be invited to keep and the deeper and more effective the Circles will be.

Restorative Justice Circles – the real deal can be done at all health levels.

Public Health levels include promotion, prevention and treatment – primary, secondary, tertiary levels. Restorative Justice Circles work at these levels as well, re-affirm (primary) relationships, rebuild (secondary) relationships and repair (tertiary) relationships, an outcome for every level.

Restorative Justice Circles, can be used at each level and when promoting a culture change, as in a school, they need to be used at all levels.

Once the skills of keeping a “real deal”, Restorative Justice Circle are gained, exploring and finding ways to utilize Circles will be easily obtained and those Circles will be successful.

Each training I do, builds upon earlier training sessions. After 6 years of training,in our community, SCVRJP has successfully implemented Circles. We used to talk as a board of wanting to “embed the philosophy”. The University of Wisconsin, River Falls, has a student position – where the PEACE – PEER EMPOWERMENT & COMMUNITY EDUCATION program, has a Circle-keeper!

This is a monumental and awesome thing! I am feeling proud of the work of SCVRJP and the partnership with the UWRF campus. So I want to promote using Circles effectively!

I mention the “real deal” in my blog title.

Simply using a talking piece, is not a Restorative Justice Circle. Link here for Covey’s definition of a Talking Piece. Restorative Justice Circles, as brought from the Yukon, to the US, based in first nations/indigenous work include: Ceremony (Open/Close), Guidelines (Values), Talking Piece, Consensus, Storytelling, Keeper and the 4 stages of Circle.

There are other Circles – great stuff from the West Coast, Christina Baldwin, PeerSpirit Circles. That style returns the talking piece to the Center, and includes a monitor that would ring a chime or bell to keep on topic. Those two elements are different than a Restorative Justice Circle.

Restorative Circle – work has 3 stages, Restorative Justice Circles, 4 stages. I am not sure if a talking piece is used in the Restorative Circle format. From what I have read the emphasis is on the process, and with Restorative Jusitce Circles, the values and stages are key.

Restorative Justice Circles, the Circles at SCVRJP always include diverse participants, meaning people with different perspectives. Some label needed, a person harmed, a person who caused harm and community perspective. The diversity allows for the exploration and perspectives to come from different places. Solutions to repair the harm can then come from different perspectives.

Keepers in Restorative Justice Circles have to become skilled at neutral language, engaging audiences from different perspectives. I think a way to not being judged is to not be judgemental. I was co-presenting and sharing the stage with another Circle keeper. My co-presenter said “I’m not touchy-feely”, I was smiling because just before that she had been explaining how you move back to easier questions if people start to pass. I call that monitoring the emotional climate of the Circle. It doesn’t matter, if you are touchy-feely or not, what matters is that you have a skill in keeping. Keeping is about safety, and making it safe for people to trust, open up and share. Keeping is also getting people to be safe in silence, in the silence to listen.

Effective, even alone, co-keep a Restorative Justice Circle.

An element of an effective Restorative Justice Circle is engaging each and every person in the power of the Circle.  This can be a difficult group process management skill.  Lucky for Circlekeepers, the Circle itself brings that.  In essence you turn a Circle over to the individuals present.  A Restorative Justice Circle is most beneficial when each and every person feels a sense of change.

The keeper sets the tone.  The keeper prepares the space, guides the process to values, to the talking piece, to the form and efficiency of listening deeply.

The mutual exchange of transformational energy, is service.  Anyone can serve another by having compassion for that person.  By sharing how I have learned, grown and become a better person – you might be able to find some insight, some deeper perspective you had before.

Even if you are the only one assigned to be ‘keeping’ the Circle, know that your Circle will be more effective, if you view every person in the Circle as your co-keeper.  I say things like “everyone is both teacher and student”.  We honor the equal worth of every person, by having that respect and showing it to each person.  That plays out into Circles where each person feels and experiences personal growth.

Another element of an effective Restorative Justice Circle is the feeling after.  Did you as the keeper feel inspired?  Do you have a warm feeling of serving others?  It is not about fixing them, because that would mean you thought they were broken.  It doesn’t mean feeling you helped them, that would imply a debt.

More perspective on fix, help, serve here and here.  So much communication is non-verbal.  That is why spending time in Circle Training – really know and understand the concepts and philosophy about Restorative Justice and Circle is so important.

Circle is based on Native American traditions.  Restorative Justice Circles are an extension from that cultural world-view.  These two sentances are very broad and general.  Not all, but most Restorative Justice Circle practitioners that I know, did not grow up from a deep or intate connection to a Indigenous world-view.  It takes practice to work from this framework, it takes dedication and constant self-evaluation.

Those I most trust with the process, those I am most connected to have worked very hard on an inclusive world-view.  The best keepers I know, have examined their life, wounds, and strengths.  From that they have developed a pretty good sense of humor!  Please bring your whole self to relationships and you will serve others.

Stronger the bond and relationship, deeper the truth told.

My Mom died when I was 20, she had a battle with cancer that began when I was 13.  That single circumstance has influenced my parenting in many, many ways.  Other circumstances have flowed into parenting, it’s a complex human experience to be part of a Mother-Daughter bond.

Now that my daughter is 20, and she lives on her own, our relationship is free from the conflict around house rules.  Our bond and connection has grown.  I recently ran into a few pieces of paper that we were able to look at much differently.

I found a detention note from 2008.  My daughter got 2 hours of detention and was required to write a letter of apology.  For “exposing her underwear, on purpose to another student”.  I found this and really laughed.  It flies in the face of everything I train schools in regarding restorative practices.  The forced letter of apology to someone we don’t even know if they feel harmed.  I am sure in 2008, I wasn’t laughing!  I was more connected to her actions as a reflection of me.  I was connected to what people at the school might be thinking about me!  I was shamed by her behavior, that all I got was a copy of the detention paper.  I didn’t speak my truth to the school staff, I probably wasn’t restorative with my kid!  We laughed about it now.  I’m really glad I saved that paper.

I found another note from her.  She was requesting I give her more space, in the letter she promised “I won’t have sex and do drugs until I am ready”.  I didn’t see if for that at the time, I saw she wouldn’t do drugs.  I don’t know if that was a Freudian slip, or what.  When we were talking about this recently found treasure, daughter disclosed how she did not have sex with a particular boyfriend I didn’t like.  She rushed out the info, a rushed honest disclosure.  I wasn’t ready for this kind of conversation, my reaction “eewww, I assumed NOT!”

Things change from 16-20 and for me 40-44, as my Mother-Daughter bond gets stronger, the truth becomes more and more.  I see this with Restorative Justice.  I recently did a fishbowl Circle, showing teachers the process with students from their campus.  The students responded openly and honestly, they related that creating a “path” to open up was helpful.  Building connections in Circle, with the values, the early rounds, the emotional safety builds bonds and relationships.

Bond and relationship changes the climate between people.  That bond allows for more truth to be told.  Truth has layers and layers.  In addition, my side, your side, the other side all have layers.  When placed with values and safety an open container IS the climate and has the space for more and more truth.