The Four Lenses

During a restorative dialogue, it is useful to have planned a rough roadmap of what needs to be covered and in what order. In practice, the conversation is likely to bounce backwards and forwards. The roadmap will nevertheless be helpful in providing an overall picture or checklist of the important things that need to be covered. There are three sections to our roadmap: what happened, our feelings and needs, and the roles people play.

We are not proposing that these are the only three lenses to use, only that they form useful views and that further lenses may be used to explore particular parts of a story.

Here we do not cover the details of using the three lenses, that is done elsewhere.

The What Happened lens

The most common place to start a restorative dialogue is with what happened. We need to bear in mind that what each person believes happened is not the true reality - it is how they interpreted what happened and what they think about what happened. It is easy to take the view that this lens is about the facts but that is rarely the case.

Difficult conversations are almost never about getting the facts right. They are about conflicting perceptions, interpretations and values.

Douglas Stone co-author of Difficult Conversations - How to discuss what matters most

The Feelings and Needs lens

The What Happened lens looks at our thinking about a situation, the Feelings and Needs looks at an equally important element, how we feel about a situation. We draw on the ideas of Nonviolent Communication (NVC) to explore the feelings that contribute to the stories and how these feelings relate to basic human needs.

The Roles lens

The Roles lens replaces the Identity Conversation in Difficult Conversations. There are many aspects to the Roles lens, including identity. There are the formal and informal roles we play in various situations: at work, at home and in our communities. Each role comes with associated expectations, from ourselves and others, and norms of what we consider is involved in fulfilling a particular role.

At a deeper level, the Roles lens can be used to explore our identities, the fundamental way in which we see ourselves and others see us.

The Learning Lens

The main purpose of a restorative dialogue is to rebuild trust - a valuable and worthwhile outcome. In some circumstances it is possible to move on to consider what can be learnt from a conflict situation.

The Learning lens is the equivalent of the Learning Conversation in Difficult Conversations. It is an opportunity to extend the dialogue into an exploratory conversation about future practice: what we might both (all) do differently going forward. While restorative dialogue does not seek to “find solutions”, the Learning lens helps explore aspirations for how we might jointly create/ work/ interact/ function better in the future.