Too often, conflict arises and gets swept under the rug because of conflict aversion. After a few months, years, or sometimes a decade, a conflict that came up over coffee can burst out during a committee meeting or gathering of friends or co-workers. This creates challenges where the individuals in conflict have different opinions, which breaks down the decision making process, friendship or working relationships.

The Restorative Circle process is based on reflective listening, that is making sure whoever speaks is heard and understood. The facilitator meets with every person (Pre-Circle) prior to gathering the whole community for the conversation (Circle). In the Circle, the community co-creates a new path forward. At a future date, the community meets together (Post-Circle) to check in on how the plan is working. During the process the facilitator is supported by other experienced Restorative Circle facilitators.

The Restorative Circle facilitator training begins with an experience of what happens when we listen to someone who thinks differently than we do. We then experience what it feels like to actually be heard by another person. As we pause to really listen for the meaning the other person is speaking about, the walls between us drop, empathy becomes possible. We may not agree, yet we come to understand each other.

We expand this understanding with the practice of the Pre-Circle, listening to understand the person involved with a conflict who is seeking a conversation. During this process we identify one thing that was said or done (act/event) that summarizes the conflict. We make a list of the other people involved.

A demonstration Circle is set up to experience how these types of conversations flow with the support of a facilitator. We explore three questions: first on feelings, second on needs, and third creating harmony in their relationships. The facilitator invites each person speaking to choose someone in the Circle to reflect the meaning of what they share.

The Post Circle is a time to check in with one another on how the plan to create harmony is working. Sometimes we celebrate because we feel better. Sometimes we need to listen again to understand. Sometimes we find there is need for another plan.

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