– Talking the Talk
Restorative justice to me is the way forward for all schools; it gives all
parties the right to be listened to, and to feel they have been heard.
Primary Learning Support Assistant
Active and empathic listening can be relatively easy if the people in conversation are not in direct conflict with each other or are not having a challenging and potentially difficult conversation. The stakes are raised, however, if what is being said can be interpreted as a threat or an attack, or would appear to contradict the experience of the other person. Conflicts of interest and an imbalance of power can both start to play a part in what can rapidly escalate into a hostile exchange. This chapter considers the restorative skills and approaches needed when two people broach a potentially difficult conversation or find themselves in conflict unexpectedly. It also describes some of the techniques that can be used in a training workshop to allow people to develop their restorative conversation skills and receive supportive feedback.
It is a novel concept for some people that a discussion involving disagreement need not be a battle in which someone wins and someone loses. The metaphors we use in English for discussion tend to emphasise the conflictual side of dialogue (Lakoff and Johnson 1980). We talk about taking sides, winning or losing an argument, attacking someone's position, defending a point of view, feeling defeated or triumphant, and so on. Many people are brought up to think that if they have a different perspective from someone else the task is to win this person over, persuade or convince – rather than simply to be curious about the differences.
Even when there is an attempt to find some middle ground we use an expression that has an implication of something that is less than ideal – a compro