I am working with a reference team to set up a restorative conversation for a congregation. Amy and Betty are in conflict. The conflict’s affecting a lot of people and taking up a lot of Council’s time and energy. Council wants this issue resolved as quickly as possible.
The reference team told me Amy isn’t interested in the situation with Betty getting better. Moreover, Amy thinks Betty is harmful and should leave the church.
Any suggestions as I head into the pre-circle meetings with Amy and Betty? I know that sometimes a circle isn’t recommended. How can I ensure, as much as possible, that bringing these women together does not create more harm? What should I be listening for?
A: Set yourself up for success. First ensure the reference team and Council understand you begin the process with an assessment phase to determine which restorative approach makes sense. The Council’s desire for Amy and Betty to end the conflict is understandable but a restorative approach that involves the two of them directly may not work, at least at first. If that is the case, there will still be opportunities for people affected to talk in restorative ways about the impact on them and others, and about moving forward together. The restorative facilitator does not arrive with a magic bullet to make everything ok. The outcome is determined by the conversation the participants have. Participants have to be ready to have that conversation.
When you meet with the women individually to explain the process and go through the questions you will be using, you can explore their readiness to participate.
The resources here, Becoming Familiar with Patterns of Conflict Levels of Conflict and Participating in a Restorative Conversation, can help you have that conversation.
Reviewing these resources during the pre-circle interviews can help you and the women decide together what’s best. Have both women identify what level of conflict they see their relationship is at. Then go through the readiness to participate chart.