We’re lawyers. We’ve been trained – like soldiers – to engage with conflict. We believe the training we’ve received has been a blessing and curse: a blessing because we are not afraid to voice or engage with an alternative view; and a curse because we have only been trained in limited ways to engage with those alternative views.
At Forrest Webb, we seek to approach conflict creatively, looking for the underlying unity that seeks to reveal itself. Our intention is to work together effectively and gracefully through change and resultant conflict. When issues arise, we commit to having a conversation to examine how to handle change and keep the relationship alive. Because we are human and fallible, we recognize that we may default to the conflict mindset that we have inherited from our cultures and our systems. To prevent that we have developed a restorative practice that operates from an understanding of conflict that does not include an opponent.
Our process for addressing change and engaging disagreement
Initiating an ACED conversation:
When a person wants to initiate an ACED conversation, we have agreed to the following format:
- That person will send an email invitation to the persons in Forrest Webb who are directly impacted by the issue.
- The email will be brief and follow this non-violent communication format:
Observation –> Feeling –> Need –> Request
When (I saw ____________) or When ( ______ happened),
I request a meeting with you _______________________(next week, on Thursday, etc.) to have an ACED conversation.
“When I saw …” or “When … happened.” ← This is a factual statement without evaluative content and is what actually happened, i.e. “the act.” This is what is meant by the term “the event” in the Mutual Comprehension question below.
The hyperlinks lead to a list of Feelings and Needs from NVC.
Who is Invited to Participate
Each invitee may suggest one other person they believe is needed for support or to help restore or heal our community connection or additional persons who are impacted.
It is our hope and intention that invitations to engage in restorative conversations will be accepted. However, participation is completely voluntary. We agree that when participation is declined, we will not extend additional invitations.
The Format of the Meeting:
When possible, we will hold meetings in person. If not possible, we will use Zoom because it allows all attendees to see one another simultaneously. We will use a talking-stick / speaking-stone and listen to each other, one at a time.
At the beginning of each meeting, someone will read out the Vision and Values of Forrest Webb and the ACED sections of this document to remind us of what is important to us all as a group and to refresh our memory of the ACED structure to which we have agreed. Someone from the group will read the email which initiated the meeting.
ACED Stage 1 – Mutual Comprehension
The person who called the meeting will open the conversation by answering the following question:
What would you like known and by whom about how you are now as a result of the event / the act?
What is important is how we are now as a result of the event. We want to make sure not to judge or blame, or look backwards in this process.
“Looping” (a.k.a. Reflective Listening)
One or more listeners will reflect back what they believe the speaker is wanting/trying to communicate – in order to confirm that there is mutual comprehension and understanding.
Once the speaker confirms that the listener/s have understood accurately and completely what the speaker is wanting to communicate, that “loop” is complete. The next speaker may then have a turn to answer the question with the other members Looping as they feel moved to respond, with at least one member looping each time.
ACED Stage 2 – Self-Responsibility
The next question for each member of the circle (with continued Looping) is:
What were you reaching for [when you took the action or responded to the event]?
What made your action or your response to the event a good idea? What was your good reason for choosing to do what you did – either in authoring or responding to the event?
ACED Stage 3 – Action Plan
What would we like to have happen next?
Using this question, and based on the understanding of the conditions that gave rise to the action and responses that triggered conflict, the group can brainstorm ideas about what each member of the circle might do to address/change the conditions and we can design a way forward that will help avoid replicating past dysfunction, make desired course corrections, and bring positive change to our community and work.
ACED Stage 4 – Closure and Follow Up
Before the meeting is ended, a subsequent meeting will be scheduled for the purpose of checking in, e.g. to see how things have been going, check on the efficacy of the Action Plan, complete promises from the previous call, and hopefully celebrate reconnection.