I absolutely love facilitating restorative conversations.
When I share that, people are often surprised. People ask for restorative conversations when harm has happened. Working with people who have been harmed or caused harm at work means getting in the muck with people and grappling with the ways people oppress each other. The stories people share about harms can be hard to hear because they remind me of times I've been harmed or witnessed harm at work. Often the parties involved can't see each other's humanity and can't imagine a world where they could have a productive relationship again. Restorative conversations require tangling with people's shadows and their emotions - and in the United States many of us have been conditioned to eschew emotions. I think people are surprised that I want to do such emotional and sometimes dark work.
For me, restorative work is about doing what is needed to maintain right, reciprocal relationship with others. One of my restorative teachers says that 80% of restorative work is about the relationship. The other 20% is about what we do when harm happens. When there is a breach or rupture that causes harm, restorative work helps people find their way back to each other. Yes it means tangling with emotions but if we want a liberatory world where we all can be our full human selves that requires being open to emotions and the mess of conflict. Restorative work helps us understand each other, take accountability for our contribution to the breach, and make commitments for how we want to move forward together.
When I facilitate restorative conversations, I get to witness people seeing and hearing each other - they move from focusing on defending themselves to being open to accountability and repair. People who were skeptical that there was a way forward with someone rediscover the humanity of that person. People take responsibility. They hear from the person harmed what they need for repair. They make actionable commitments to make things as right as possible. It's beautiful to behold. That's why I love it. I get to help people find their way back to each other.
I believe all of the work we do at The Equity Practice is all restorative. We work to build people's capacity to lead and manage in more liberatory ways. Liberatory workplaces are designed to ensure that employees and employers are in right, reciprocal relationship with each other. Because it's possible to do good work without extraction and oppression. Companies can get things done without practicing domination. I believe if more of us can let go of our need for domination and control, we can fundamentally change our workplaces. And I think that would be beautiful to behold.