Hello Clarity. I’ve Met You Before.

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).

Daegu NVC Restorative Circle

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:

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14 thoughts on “Hello Clarity. I’ve Met You Before.

  1. For haileytallman, I think it depends on whether he is a certified NVC trainer, how large and strong and his personal network is, and his NVC, facilitation and group skills. From what I’ve seen, it would take a number of years before one could develop the credibility and network to make a substantial living teaching NVC.

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    1. Thanks for helping us out Chaz! I agree. In order to become a certified trainer you have to go many trainings, and also prove that you are at a certain level of NVC understanding. When you are approved by the board members, which includes Marshall Rosenberg, then you can become a trainer.

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  2. This is great! I’m going to share it with my brother as he is passionate about NVC. Can anyone reading this give your opinion on someone without a Master’s or Ph.D. becoming an NVC facilitator as their PROFESSION? My brother is very experienced in NVC, gifted as a facilitator, and feels called to start offering NVC workshops and facilitating these types of circles. I guess he feels concerned that he doesn’t have the credentials of a degree behind him, and also concerned about whether he could make his living doing this. Your comments would be appreciated.

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    1. Thanks for sharing this with your brother Hailey! I’d love to hear more about his experience as a facilitator. We have quite the circle of facilitators in our Daegu group. Actually, one of these facilitators is Chaz, who responded to your comment at the top of this page. I concur with everything he has to say about becoming an NVC trainer. In relation to getting a Master’s or Phd. I would look into conflict transformation programs. Let me know how it works out!

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  3. Thanks for this, Josette!

    Indeed clarity is something we all long for, because if we not clear, it’s difficult to get what we want, to meet are needs. One need fights with another until I am clear about which is most important, prioritize, and find strategies to meet needs that might have seemed mutually exclusive.

    The question I am left with after reading your post is: from where does clarity emerge? It emerges, as you suggest, when “the right space” is created for it to do so. And it emerges not out of the mind, where we often assume clarity lives, but from deep within our bodies and hearts, the places where our core needs reside.

    Thank you for this glimpse into the workshop that I so regrettable missed, and into your own precious process of gaining clarity for yourself, and, I would suggest, of helping others with whom you are connected gaining a little more too!

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    1. You’re welcome Chaz! Writing this piece helped me connect to the experience even more. Now knowing how others connected to it, makes the experience that much more meaningful.

      I really connected to what you wrote, “And it emerges not out of the mind, where we often assume clarity lives, but from deep within our bodies and hearts, the places where our core needs reside.” Yes! And I think that with conflict, often the core need that we have is understanding. When I know that someone has truly understood me, my body feels lighter and my heart feels fuller.

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  4. Thank you so much for sharing the idea of a restorative circle, a “safe space to have conflicts”. I wish to facilitate a “safe space to take risks” in my English classes and I see many parallels.

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    1. You are very welcome, Kathy! I am so happy that you stopped by my blog, and shared how this post affected you. I am very curious about how you facilitate safe spaces in your English classes. I look forward to reading more about your ideas on your blog. Take care!

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      1. I did try a number of things when exploring the idea of persistence in my adult classroom. I have a lot to learn, though. “What have I don’t to facilitate a safe learning place and what else could be done?” sounds like a good reflective post topic. Thanks for the idea, will do!

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        1. I look forward to reading that post Kathy! I’m happy to have found another teacher in the blogosphere who is interested in reflective practice and compassionate communication! Or I should say, I’m happy you found me. Happy holidays!

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