To argue is to be heard. Find the arguement and facilitate Restorative Justice.

One of my all time favorite bloggers is Penelope Trunk.  I like her because I emailed her a career question and she answered me.  In addition, she’s a great blogger role model.  In reading her post today, I followed a link about “social skydiving” .  I checked that out, Trunk consistently provides interesting links.  I found myself in “blog-trance”, reading post after post, clicking on the “most popular” or “others you might like”.  Blog-trance is like story-trance, you are glued to the topic, interested, time doesn’t matter.  Some may call it “flow“.  Then I found this gem, on the new blog: 

People argue to make themselves heard.

That’s a good quote.  In the middle of a discussion about energy vampires, the truth of an argument is that seldom do people go “oh, ya, your right”.  Of course the backdrop of my mind is Restorative Justice.  I thought about the teacher that shared student behavior has improved because the kids are “heard” in Circle.  They don’t need to act out for attention.

This You Tube is a TERRIBLE example of a Circle.  There is SOOOOOO much wrong with it.  However, if you watch it you will see that at the end, the “reason” for the bully behavior.  The student shares in the end, outside of Circle, why she behaves as she does.  PLEASE NOTE – what is portrayed in the video is NOT a Restorative Justice Circle!

The reason I link to this example is that – listening did not happen first.  When you do a Restorative Justice Circle – you start with setting the stage.  You bring in values, you establish some communication before the incident.  I believe doing this sets us up to be listened to.  By speaking about other items before the critical conversation – trust and safety emerge.

It is amazing what emotional hot topics can be placed into Circle.  When people listen to each other a transformation happens.  I’ve heard many victims, acknowledge that the Circle itself is “repair” enough.  By finding what the argument is, before going into the Circle – you can uncover what people need to be “listened” about.  Pre-conference meetings are important.  If you are doing this in schools, make SURE your students are familiar with the process BEFORE trying it on a conflict or argument.  Be very skilled yourself as a keeper – if you move in to help in these kinds of Circles.

I turned a controlled substance class around using this.  Those attending began to speak to justifications about their substance use, and the negative “misconceptions” about pot use.  So I picked up the talking piece and gave space for people to speak to the stereotypes of pot smokers.  I let the participants be “heard” and they stopped arguing.  They turned to listening, and when our speaker (during the addressing issue stage) shared his story, the relationship to pot was seen in a different light.  We went on to talk about the cycle from non-use, to use, abuse, addiction and back to non-use.  I asked the Circle about their experiences and sure enough, they all had examples that made the case that pot can destroy lives and have negative impact.  The participants themselves taught the topic to each other.  That’s the amazing thing about Restorative Justice, engage those most impacted and they can impact each other.  Just listen enough to stop the argument.