Restorative dialogue does not require answers to be found or new ideas for resolving problems.

A successful dialogue does not need the last two stages of the process. At the end of the Dialogue stage, we hope to;

  • have built trust and understanding
  • have improved relationships
  • know where people have similar views and where they differ
  • encourage participants to ask themselves new questions

Achieving these things delivers a level of restoration. In some cases solutions and possibilities for action emerge and there is a desire to find answers to the issue.

In a restorative dialogue, we do not set the expectation that a solution will be found. This can make the process too solution oriented and people rush toward finding an answer. Instead, we focus on building understanding, trust and relationships between those involved. If we have managed to do this then the goodwill built up often leads on to people wanting to improve the situation. That is not to say that ideas, or possibilities for action, will not come up during the Dialogue stage. If they do they should be captured and fed into this stage.

It might be a good idea at this stage to revisit the question of concerns and fears, hopes and aspirations. It is important to say that an ideas does not have to solve the entire problem, it could be a small piece of the jigsaw and it is a valued contribution.

People do not resist change: people resist being changed. Peter Senge

Those involved will feel more comfortable if they are able to contribute to a solution. If we are involved in the development of a solution we are more likely to want to see it succeed.

At this stage we are open to hearing and considering possibilities for action. We need to bring the same attitudes that have hopefully been displayed up to this point. Bear in mind that previously the dialogue has centred on the experiences of the individuals. They know their perceptions of what happened and how they felt. When talking about possibilities for action, people will be sharing their ideas. Ideas that will be only partially thought through. So we need to be open and keep in mind;

  • what is still missing?
  • what don't we know?
  • how might the idea impact those involved?
  • who else needs to be involved?
  • how will we know if it is working?

It is also important to leave enough space for further ideas to be heard. These may build on ideas that have been shared. The use of the talkingpiece helps as it gives each person an opportunity to contribute a new idea or build on an existing one.

It is likely to take at least one session to arrive at a preferred solution and there may not be a specific solution, rather a number of possible helpful actions. Documenting the solution or actions provides an opportunity for everyone to be clear about what the solution or actions mean and makes it easier to come back to them at a later stage.

It can also be beneficial to leave a period of time before agreement is reached about what is going to be done. Ideas are often assessed on logic and reason and a decision reached quickly. Letting the ideas sit with people gives an opportunity for individuals to become comfortable with the route forward at a deeper, and often more meaningful, level.

At a deeper level, there is also a psychological tug-of-war going on. For each individual, part of them wants to go ahead with the change and part of them wants to keep things as they are. You may have experienced this when you are faced with doing something, particularly something that is new. Part of you is looking forward to it, and another part of you is saying I'd rather not, particularly if it is outside of your comfort zone. Carl Jung called this XXXXX.

At the end of this stage you will have a list of actions to be carried out. An important part of the process is planning how these actions will be followed up.

What can you live with?

Part of the Dialogue stage is to uncover and express the wants and needs of the individuals involved in the conflict. An important part of considering possible actions is the question “What can you live with?” The Community Dialogue initiative, which works to help transform understanding and build trust amongst people who often hold opposing political, social and religious views in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, has a dialogue process base on three questions, the third one being “What can you live with considering the needs of others may be different from yours?”


Introduction | Handling the trigger | 1. Preparation | 2. Dialogue | 3. Finding solutions | 4. Follow up


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