The 7 Principles of Restorative Communication
THE SEVEN PRINCIPLES OF RESTORATIVE COMMUNICATION – THE 7 R’s ™
A principle is a basic truth, ideal, or tenet that we rely on to guide our behavior. Most often, principles are based on a fundamental belief about what constitutes correct, moral and/or ethical treatment of others.
In communication terms, a principle is essentially a ground rule which, if followed, ensures the correct, moral and/or ethical treatment of others (and ourselves) in the act of communicating. A principle of communication, if intentionally followed, guides communication behavior – the manner in which we interact with each other and with ourselves.
To be a conscientious communicator is to be consciously aware that communication is more than just the delivery of information. To be conscientious is to be rigorously aware that the way we communicate creates the experience of our relationships and each other. With self-awareness, intention and practice, these principles become highly effective restorative communication habits.
Restorative Communication begins with the principle of relationship. In fact, all the principles of restorative communication are built on this first fundamental principle. The principle of relationship emphasizes the primary role that communication plays in creating and maintaining the experience of the relationships for communicators. Positive communication builds positive relationships. Negative communication degrades relationships. This principle places the health of the relationship – achieved and sustained by constructive communication – as the primary objective.
RECOGNITION OF INHERENT DIGNITY
The second principle is a Recognition of the Inherent Dignity (“ID”) of every human being. Recognition of Inherent Dignity is a basic regard for the sanctity of an individual life. We may not agree with, like or respect what another person says or does, but they are valuable simply because they are human. The same is true of ourselves. Strategically, to recognize this principle compels us to distinguish between a person’s inherent value, and their opinions and behavior. Behavior is something people do. Valuable is something people are.
Because every human being is born with inherent value, they deserve a baseline of respect. We may not respect what a person says or does, but we can be respectful in the way we communicate with them – and about them. This can be difficult to do when someone pushes our buttons, acts egregiously, and/or offends us. But respect-based communication is the relational life-blood of any healthy family, school, or organization. Respectful communication is the framework that protects people and preserves both interpersonal and social relationships. The personal benefit of communicating respectfully with others is that in doing so, we reaffirm our own inherent dignity.
Every individual is personally responsible for how their communication behavior impacts others. Responsibility means taking ownership for one’s own communication habits with no excuses. We can think of this principle as our personal code of communication conduct. As leaders, teachers, or parents, we can model this in our own communication as well as support others in our group or community to do the same.
Taking responsibility for our communication means taking responsibility for the ongoing health of our relationships. When we miss the mark and communicate in an unhealthy or unconstructive way, we need to take responsibility for how we impacted others and our relationship with them. We do this by abiding by the following three principles: Reconciliation, Repair, and Reintegration.
Taking responsibility for our communication and the health of relationships requires a non-negotiable commitment to reconciliation in order to reestablish harmony and “good relations” between individuals and/or groups. Without a commitment to reconcile, the consequences of a negative interaction are not addressed. As a result, a valuable learning opportunity is lost, people’s feelings are not expressed, and resentment can build thereby impacting future interaction. Reconciliation enables accountability and the opportunity for reiteration of, and re-commitment to the principles of conscientious communication. Reconciliation is perhaps the single most important principle in the prevention of future conflict.
Reconciliation often requires repair. To repair is to take ultimate personal responsibility for how what we’ve said, may have harmed others. The principle of repair establishes that in order for relationships to be returned to a place of mutual respect and stability, any harm experienced as a result of negative interaction needs to be concretely addressed. Repair can involve anything from a sincere apology, to a “reparative action plan” to address the underlying thinking, attitudes and behaviors while developing better ways to communicate through training and education.
The principle of reintegration emphasizes the social reality of interdependence. Every individual is an integral member of the family, school, and community and therefore needs to contribute – via healthy communication – to the social fabric. Abiding by the principle of reintegration compels us to constantly recognize our responsibility for the well-being of the whole, and consistently contribute to the health of relationships through constructive communication. Reintegration requires that we (a) repair when needed (b) accept limitations of others and (c) strive to develop personal communication skills. Reintegration is a constant process realized when healthy communication is restored.