This section covers some the key skills that help those involved in the restorative dialogue process, either as a participant or facilitator. These are not just skills for use during the dialogue process but essential life skills that can be used in numerous situations. Improving your abilities in these skills can reap many rewards. The skills of listening, observing and being aware, help us be present in the conversation. Asking questions and using helpful language aid interaction, and finally, reflection gives us insight into how we might do things differently.

Enhancing these sorts of skills is best done using experiential learning - an approach based on our own experiences and found to be most effective for adult learning. This approach involves using the skill, learning from the experience and preparing, so that the next time you use the skill you have changed how you will do it. This forms a cycle of prepare, do and learn. Learning some of these skills may require you to stretch yourself a little, taking you out of your comfort zone. Make sure that the stretch is only a little uncomfortable, not painful. It is like doing physiotherapy where recovery often needs a small level of discomfort, but overdoing it can cause pain and further injury.

Every time you go round the cycle and apply a stretch, you don't return to the exact same start point. The stretch means you increase your ability and start the next cycle from a slightly different place. Learning in this way is like a spiral that gradually grows each time you complete a cycle.

This learning process is a natural one that you may not even be aware you are doing. You might do something and think “that didn't quite go the way I expected, what I'll do next time is….”. You have just gone through a learning cycle.

Of course it is not always that simple, you might need to deliberately spend time reflecting on your experience or searching out ideas that might provide insight into how you could do something differently next time. You might want to prepare by rehearsing how you will do something next time. This could be going over it in your mind, talking the situation through with a friend to gauge their reaction, or doing a role play.

Where you start in the learning cycle is a matter of personal choice. Some people like to do something and use the experience as the basis of their learning. Others prefer to understand how things work in theory before trying them out. It does not matter where you start, what matters is that you start somewhere.

You may be wondering when you can develop these skills. The good news is that you don't need to be in a conflict situation in order to work on them. You can use everyday interactions to improve your listening skills, be curious about other peoples' perspectives and ask better questions to get under the surface in everyday conversations.

Introduction | Listening | Asking Questions | Observing | Awareness | Using helpful language | Reflection

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