In the past few weeks, I’ve had the delightful opportunity to explore a concept I hadn’t realized was so dear to me: clarity. Until recently I just thought I was excessively curious. When someone shares something with me, the question, “Why?” lingers on the tip of my tongue, until I have the chance to spit it out. Now I’m aware it is more than mere curiosity.
When I get a clear picture of what you are thinking or doing, I get a deeper understanding. It is in the understanding that I’m able to see you for who you are, and not for who I may judge you to be. Clarity is the pathway I use to see your humanity. Clarity helps me connect to you on a compassionate level. As an educator, I believe this is important.
All my life, I’ve been searching for pathways of clarity so that I could make myself understood, and so that I could understand others. I wanted to create meaningful connections. At first the pathways I chose weren’t life serving and didn’t meet my core values. Finally, I came upon the process of Nonviolent Communication (NVC).
NVC gives me the clarity to see others through the eyes of feelings and needs, and as a result, I have a better capacity to see their humanity. By understanding how when someone does something — no matter how horrific it may be — that they are simply trying meet their needs, I am less likely to demonize, and more likely to find compassion and understanding.
For the past five years, NVC has given me increasing amounts of clarity. And thanks to the help and support of my NVC practice group, my understanding of how to make meaningful connections has dramatically increased. Yet despite this support, I still felt like I was missing something. I noticed that I’m only able to apply NVC when the stakes aren’t high, but when a real conflict arises, apprehension and fear sets it. I avoid the conflict. By avoiding conflict, I’m also avoiding clarity. I’m avoiding an important part of myself and the other.
When we’re in conflict, this is where clarity becomes extremely important. In conflict we are usually blinded by anger, resentment, pain and fear. These feelings cloud our ability to connect with others. However, if we are able to understand the points of view that surround the conflict, then it is easier to arrive at a shared-understanding.
But in what kind of space would such clarity be permitted to surface? Yesterday, with the guidance of our trainer John Myser, our NVC practice group experienced a restorative circle, and I realized that this is the space in which such clarity lives.
A restorative circle is basically a safe space to have conflicts. According to the concept of restorative circles, there are three players in a conflict: a receiver (victim), an author (offender), and the community. The facilitator helps these parties gain more clarity about the event. During this experiential workshop I played the role of the facilitator, and I learned how simple and safe it can be to deal with conflicts. I realized that I don’t need to avoid conflicts as long as I’m in the right space.
Just to give you a slice of the circle, I’ll describe one of the basic interactions that occurs. Imagine a conflict has arisen between Mr. Green and Ms. Red. Mr. Green is the victim (receiver) of the conflict, and Ms. Red is the offender (author). Of course, community members who were affected by the conflict are also present in the circle.
The facilitator first asks the receiver, Mr. Green, “What would you like known, and by whom, about how you are right now in relation to the act and its consequences?”
Mr. Green shares with Ms. Red.
The facilitator asks Ms. Red, ” What did you hear Mr. Green say?”
Ms. Red then shares what she heard.
The facilitator then asks Mr. Green, “Is that it?”
– If Mr. Green confirms “yes”, then the facilitator asks, “What else would you like heard?” or “Is there more?”
– If Mr. Green says “no”, then the facilitator asks, “What would you like them to know?”
It continues like this until everyone feels like they’ve been heard and understood. By using the simple steps of asking members to go deeper into clarification and understanding, the facilitator guides them to “agreed actions”.
I’m very excited to keep practicing restorative circles with our group, and hopefully I’ll get the chance to share it with the teachers in our training program. I wish that everyone could experience such clarity and depth of understanding. It is in this clarity that compassion grows. I am grateful to have met clarity.
* If you want to know more about restorative circles, check out this video where Dominic Barter shares his experience:
And here is an example of a restorative circles facilitator workshop: