If you’ve been part of a FaithCARE training or workshop you’ve been introduced to the restorative questions. As you recall, the three basic questions are:
- What happened?
- Who has been affected and in what ways?
- What needs to happen to make things right?
Every time people interact is an opportunity to develop healthy relationships. Being aware of the questions we ask.
The restorative questions are good questions to keep in mind. When something comes up and when something has gone wrong, the questions can go a long way to keep and deepen healthy connections.
What makes the restorative questions good questions?
- What happened? Focus: the past
When you ask ‘What happened?” you’re asking to hear someone’s story. The question is opened ended, inviting, non-judgmental, information seeking. Certainly a particular tone of voice can change all of that but asked from a sincerely inquisitive place the question invites someone to tell his or her story. This question helps everyone come to a better common understanding of the past. The question helps clarify misunderstandings and assumptions.
Cautionary note: avoid asking the question Why? “Why?” you ask. Well what happens when you ask “Why”?
- Who’s been affected and in what ways? Focus: the present
The impact of what happened helps everyone see if, and to what degree, relationships have been damaged. Asking the question helps people understand the extent of the impact of the situation.
Asking someone how they and others have been affected is often an eye-opener. This question helps people open up to others as the extent and nature of the impact becomes better understood.
When we then ask, “What’s been the hardest thing for you?” the opportunity for others to hear about the extent of the impact is increased. The possibility of understanding opens up. Empathy can be awakened and the desire to reconnect is sparked.
- What needs to happen to make things right? Focus: the future
Now we move into the future. Damaged relationships are addressed. Those involved come together to find a way forward, taking responsibility to make things happen.
What’s the benefit of asking the restorative questions?
Those involved in the situation:
- have a safe way to talk about things. The questions structure the conversation.
- don’t get stuck in an adversarial blame-shame environment seeking retribution.
- don’t get stuck in how awful things have been for them and for others.
- find a way to address the harm done by getting at the impact of what’s happened and restoring a bond of understanding, respect, and dignity.
Using the questions:
- when there’s a conflict
- use them informally when things aren’t going well
- addressing a conflict early can help prevent it growing into something larger and more damaging
- when there’s an issue to discuss but no conflict
- asking the questions can help move things forward avoiding a conflicted situation
- people practice using the questions so that they become part of the community’s way of being together
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