4 “inner” tools to do effective Restorative Justice Circle work.

We only know what we know and we can only do what we can do.  What we know and do translates to how we think and act (our behavior).

In a culture of safety, built by the values and structure of the talking piece, we can have new experiences of relating to one another.  A story told in this container, is transformative.  Psychology Today post, on how storytelling brings us together, our brains literally “sync up”.  To get people to a new way on “knowing” and “doing”.

How do you create these kinds of experiences?

I beleive it has a great deal to do with the work BEFORE the Circle, as much as the beginning of the Circle.

Tool 1 – Yourself.  Spend time thinking and learning about how you feel about power.  What do you need to leave behind to embrace, really, really embrace equality and sit in Circle with people.  A “hey we are all equal” mindset removes performance anxiety, equality with different roles, the keeper is guiding the process.  Guiding people to all be Keepers in the Circle, keeper means you care about the outcome for all above the outcome for one.

Self examine your actions in relation to power.  Sitting at the head of the table, is a power position.  Sitting in a chair that is higher up in elevation, standing outside the Circle or standing up when not necessary is a power position.  How do you hold your personal energy when Circle-keeping, it can influence the process.

Tool 2 – Preparation.  Take a moment to center yourself before you keep a Circle.  Kay Pranis and the book Peacemaking Circles, recommends this.  Even one deep sigh, to let go of you, clear the space in you, and remember it is the Circle.

The opening introduction you do is very important.  Find your paragraph, your elevator speech, the comfort of your words to explain restorative justice and Circles.  Consider your audience.  Ask a friend or partner to listen, practice it alone in the car.  Gedi master this part!

The way you set it up is a big responsibility, it sets the tone.  Think of setting a table, you put out the tablecloth, the lines, the silverware, the center piece.  Lay the foundation for the philosophy, explain the ideas and concepts.  Explain the structure and tools.

Tool 3 – Values.  We don’t talk a great deal about values, introducing the concept can be tricky.  I teach a back door method of thinking about a person you are close with, then identifying the value.  (I know I have more detailed blog posts on this).  Going straight at it, I think we get “social mask” answers.  By going at it by a relationship, you get real life examples.  It can be hard to explain this, practice is needed here.

Tool 4 – Growth.  Ask for feedback and input.  Circle keeping, done well, leaves everyone in the Circle, including you different.  Practice this by bringing your whole heart to the Circles you sit in on.  Get in Circle by creating them, or attending them.  Find space to practice your habits and the gifts of the Circle will be in your hands and heart.