This continuum from the International Institute of Restorative
Practices (IIRP) includes the following basic tools:
• Affective statements are statements for expressing
personal feelings in response to behaviors experienced as
either positive or negative. For example, “When I hear you
talking while I am talking, I feel frustrated because I want
my message to be heard.” The affective statement may be
followed by a request such as, “Would you be willing to let
me finish my thoughts before you share yours?”
• Affective questions are designed to elicit feelings in
a way that avoids judgement and blame by the person
asking and provides improved understanding, even
empathy. IIRP provides two sets of restorative questions,
one for the person who is showing challenging behavior
(offender), and the other for those who have been
affected or harmed (victim). In situations with no clear
offender or victim, some of these questions may be
asked of any of the stakeholders. The questions can be
used to facilitate conversations between those in conflict
or to simply structure one-on-one communication for a
more restorative conversation.
Restorative Questions I To respond to challenging behavior
• What happened?
• What were you thinking of at the time?
• Who has been affected by what you have done?
In what way?
• What do you think you need to do to make things right?
Restorative Questions II To help those harmed by other’s actions
• What did you think when you realized what had happened?
• What impact had this incident had on you and others?
• What has been the hardest thing for you?
• What do you think needs to happen to make things right?
(From the IIRP website, www.iirp.edu)
• Small Impromptu Conferences are responses to
everyday conflicts that place accountability on those
involved, building on the restorative questions. A
third party brings together those actively involved or
impacted by a conflict and uses affective questions
to allow them to share their feelings, be heard, and
• Circles are groups of people being with one
another literally in a circle, ideally without barriers
such as tables. Circles may be small or large, sitting
or standing. The circle structure represents the
equality of all participants including the facilitator, who
may participate as a circle member. The facilitator,
sometimes called a circle keeper, may use a talking
piece in order to assure that participants have a
clear understanding of when to speak and when to
listen. The facilitator engages participants with circle
prompts to foster proactive community-building,
problem-solving, instruction, checking in/checking
out, or healing.
• Formal Conferences are responsive circles
convened by a trained facilitator who brings together
the stakeholders in a conflict. Using restorative
questions that may include or resemble those listed
above, the facilitator invites participants to tell their
stories, what happened, who was affected and in
what way, and ultimately what needs to be done to
repair the harm. Formal conferences require significant
planning to assure that all parties have a common
understanding of the expectations and goals of the
conference. A wide range of conferences exist and
are designed to address concerns of varied degrees
of seriousness, such as suspensions, neighborhood
vandalism and theft; even fatal incidents of harm.
The concept of fair process is a critical component of restorative
practices. In their 2003 article in the Harvard Business Review,
Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne suggest that when there is
engagement of those involved, explanation of the process, and
expectation clarity about what to expect, people are more likely
to trust the process and be committed to a decision, even if they
don’t necessarily get what they want. Fair process is not the same
as decision by consensus. The key principle of fair process in the
restorative philosophy mirrors the procedural fairness aspects
of mediation; essentially, that when people feel that the process
used to reach a resolution is fair then they are more likely to follow
through with agreements reached.
RESTORATIVE PRACTICES APPLICATIONS FOR
CONFLICT RESOLUTION PRACTITIONERS
A restorative neutral uses methods to explore the harm that
conflict caused and seeks ways to restore relationships. Instead of
focusing on what will resolve the conflict or dismiss the law suit, a
restorative mediator brainstorms solutions that will “make things
right” for both parties. Much like a transformative mediator who
takes a relational perspective to dispute resolution, the restorative
neutral has the tools to determine when a sense of harm or shame
contributes to the dispute and can use tools to restore the situation.
Whether or not the mediator fully subscribes to the principles of
restorative practices, when strategically used the tools help people
to resolve conflicts. Several restorative practices principles integrate easily into the traditional mediation process.