Restorative Practices Recap

Session 1

We gathered last Thursday April 28 to kick off our series on Restorative Practices with trainers from the Dispute Resolution Center of West Michigan. We discussed what makes a good neighbor:

We also practiced honest expressions in communication. By looking at what we feel makes a good neighbor, we can apply those qualities to ourselves. With this mindset,  we can communicate our values and needs to our neighbors.

In honest communications, we take an observation and identify the feelings that are brought out in us about a situation. Then we can look at what we need. This is followed by making a request to fulfill that need. By examining the way that we present ourselves in conversations with others, we can figure out how to word our request. Following the formula we learned will  help us get the response we are looking for.

  • “When I see / hear / experience …” (observation)
  • “I feel …” (add an emotion word, not a thought)
  • “Because I need / value / care about …”  (add a need word, not a thought)
  • “Would you be willing to … ?” (offer a strategy that will meet your need AND be willing to hear “no” in response)

We practiced making a request rather than a demand.  We also identified how the other person might feel and respond to the different types of message. We have all experienced the feelings that accompany an angry demand from  someone. So, it was easy for us all to agree that our needs most likely will go unmet when we come from a place of anger and demands.

Practicing positive communication techniques can help avoid the defensiveness that comes out of demanding things of others. We are excited to use this skill as a building block as we move into session 2: “Who do I think you are?” We will talk about how the assumptions we make about people do us all a disservice. We will also learn about the ladder of emotions as a tool for turning conversations around.

Session 2

The centerpiece activity of this session was very popular! We each wrote down something unusual about ourselves. Then we put all the statements in a bucket, drew one, and had to mingle with the other attendees asking questions related to the fact to figure out whose it was.

The point goes along with the initial discussion about the assumptions and stories that we tell
ourselves. We learned that we need to question these stories, most especially when they concern
other people. Do we really understand who they are and what they are doing and why? Or are we
making up the narrative from some simple observations?

We moved from there to the emotions that surround our stories. We discussed how our emotional response to what we are seeing can become more powerful in the story of what happened than the actual event.

We went on to explore the topic of shame and how it can affect ourselves and others. Shame in
ourselves or communicated to others, can be a powerful motivator for change, “I will never do
that again”. Or it can be a very negative force that can cause us to withdraw, avoid, or attack
ourselves or others.

We also talked about how the feeling of shame can be a positive, lesson learning factor. If we have said or done something that we do not feel good about we can use that as a lesson to act or react differently next time. We also looked at how to respond to someone who we can tell is feeling shame with empathy and listening skills.

Session 3

We began our journey this week by identifying a super-power that we would most like to have.
Many of the super-powers included some form of better communication with others. Wouldn’t it
be pretty awesome if we could tell what others were thinking or feeling? Or simply had the
ability to speak many different languages? Or could somehow just have a sense of understanding
of everything?

Next, we were given a handout that contained a long list of feelings and emotions as a reference
to try help identify how we are feeling. We took turns reading a short statement with the others trying to identify the feelings behind what was being said. When we look at the feelings that are driving what another person is saying we come closer to why something is being said. Then we can have a better understanding of the person’s needs behind the statement. This in turn will help us to correctly respond to the need that is being communicated.

We moved on to communication styles using the social discipline window. The image shows
control or structure from low on the bottom to high at the top, and support from low on the left to
high on the right:

Low control and support = Neglectful (bottom left) = NOT (cold) High control, low support = Authoritarian (dictator), (top left) = TO (strict and cold) Low control, high support = Permissive communication =FOR (warm but lenient) High control and support = Authoritative (leader) communication = WITH (strict and warm)

The capitalized words within the boxes represents the quick way to figure out which style is
being used:

  • To just “NOT” do or say something reflects a neglectful attitude in an interaction.
  • The Authoritarian says or does something “TO” the other person.
  • Whereas the permissive person will generally do it “FOR” the other person.
  • While the Authoritative communicator will take the approach of doing or saying something “WITH” the other person.

Our goal is to get into this last box as much as possible. The Authoritative communicator will look at what is being said and the feelings and emotions behind the statement (the “why” it is being said). They will then carefully choose a response that speaks to both the statement and the feelings in trying to work out the best solution to the issue. Both participants then play a role in that solution.

When we are looking at effective communication, we need to work hard at understanding who we are talking to and that their viewpoint may be the same or different from ours. Communicating for understanding will involve some reflecting and questioning.

“It sounds like this situation is very frustrating to you”, or “I feel like you are very passionate about this”, are both statements that will tell the other person that you are hearing them and trying to understand their point of view. If you are mistaken in your understanding, the other person will help better identify their feelings about the subject.

It may be a challenging to begin practicing a different style of thinking and speaking with others, but in time will become more automatic as you continue to practice some new skills.

Session 4

This week was pretty exciting as we had the opportunity to assess how Restorative Practices work in real time. We used the techniques that we have been discussing to brainstorm  solutions to neighborhood problem:

  • that a subset of motorcycle riders have been driving recklessly through the community.

We began by identifying an area of concern. Next, we asked all participants to offer suggestions for possible solutions. After everyone had a chance to express a possible solution, each participant used three sticky dots to indicate their top three possible solutions.

The group’s most popular solutions were:

  1. (11 sticky dots) Talking to the individuals involved to open a dialogue with them to see if we can find some common ground understandings.
  2. (10 sticky dots) Encouraging individuals and organizations to make a deliberate effort to hold group activities in the park, such as church picnics and nighttime events.
  3. (9 sticky dots) Seeking environmental changes to alter the landscape in and around the park to discourage riders from driving through shared areas, such as speedbumps and continuing to block access / more effectively.
  4. (8 sticky dots) Asking our larger public entities to provide a separate and therefore appropriate place for them to ride close to the City. (As this would be expensive, it was acknowledged to be a heavy lift.)

Having identified the problem and possible solutions, we finally reminded ourselves that we  need to carry over the communication skills we have been practicing into our actions. Restorative Practices have taught us so far that we need to check up on the story that we are telling ourselves about what is going on. We also looked back at Session1, whose formula will help us get the response we are looking for. To review, the components are:

  • “When I see / hear / experience …” (observation)
  • “I feel …” (add an emotion word, not a thought)
  • “Because I need / value / care about …”  (add a need word, not a thought)
  • “Would you be willing to … ?” (offer a strategy that will meet your need AND be willing to hear “no” in response)

We acknowledged some instances when the most reckless of riders have not reacted well to being approached. However, we feel optimistic that many others would be willing to listen as we calmly voice our concerns, communicate our needs,  and make a request.

Session 5

For week five of our restorative practices, we were introduced to how Coit Creative Arts Academy has been teaching their students these principles. The value of teaching the students the art of effective communication early and practicing these skills in everyday situations will help them all throughout their lives in sorting out situations in a positive manner.

We moved on to discuss the topic of the nature of punishment in how we deal with unwanted behaviors. When we are most concerned about the aspect of punishing people, we lose focus on the fact that what we are actually looking for corrective action. We have used punishment throughout history to attempt to prevent and give consequences to unwanted behaviors.

Restorative practices, by contrast, seek to understand what went wrong in a situation in order to address what needs to happen to make up for it. We compared this approach to our criminal justice system that prioritizes the punishment over rehabilitation.

We discussed how separating the person from the deed can help bring about understanding. The process of restoring any situation makes it possible for good to come out of it. Restorative practices cannot completely eliminate all wrongdoing but can and will create a more positive response that can allow for much needed healing in what started as an unfortunate situation.

Session 6

We reviewed key items from earlier sessions such as:

  • Affective Communication
    • “When I see / hear / experience …” (observation)
    • “I feel …” (add an emotion word, not a thought)
    • “Because I need / value / care about …”  (add a need word, not a thought)
    • “Would you be willing to … ?” (offer a strategy that will meet your need AND be willing to hear “no” in response)
  • The social discipline window – doing things to, with, or for others (or not doing at all)Low control and support = Neglectful (bottom left) = NOT (cold) High control, low support = Authoritarian (dictator), (top left) = TO (strict and cold) Low control, high support = Permissive communication =FOR (warm but lenient) High control and support = Authoritative (leader) communication = WITH (strict and warm)

We also talked about how we want to use what we learned!

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