For those in the restorative practices community, there is a lot of discussion about the Social Discipline Window, how restorative practitioners exercise their authority and how to build a restorative culture. This is exciting work and I believe it is having a significant positive impact on individuals, families and communities. In my professional development experiences, we spend a lot of time thinking deeply about where we naturally fall within the Social Discipline Window and how to increase our time operating solidly within the “WITH” box.
In my experience, when the discussion turns to identifying behaviors that would fall in the “NOT” or neglectful box, many participants snicker and joke about how anybody exhibiting behaviors that fall in this box should not be in any profession that involves working with other people! Although this is good-natured humor and is appropriate in many ways, I do believe there is real value in exploring what motivates people to be in this box and how we should respond to them. It’s also important to keep in mind we have all been there at one point or another.
Just like very few people are naturally restorative, I also believe that very few people (if any) are naturally in the “NOT” box. Australian criminologist, John Braithwaite’s research tells us that being in right relationship with others motivates people. We want to be well liked and well thought of. If this is the case, then being in the “NOT” box doesn’t make any sense. This way of being ultimately pushes people away and leaves the individual isolated. However, all behaviors serve a need, so what could a person operating in this box be experiencing? Although this is a very deep issue, in my consulting practice I have discovered three main reasons or motivations:
- being physically and emotionally drained or exhausted
- feeling lost, overwhelmed or depressed
- being afraid or fearful.
Clearly, these are all very real issues that we all face throughout our lives and they have the power to impact how we function professionally. Restorative practitioners need to be self-aware and openly share (at an appropriate time with an appropriate person) what we are going through and what help we may need from others. We may also need to practice self-care by seeking professional help in the form of a counselor or therapist. As colleagues, we are uniquely positioned to be a support for our peers in this situation and to take advantage of the opportunity to build a stronger, healthier community while reaping the benefits of helping others. This is what healthy, restorative communities do.
This brief piece is not intended to diagnose or fix anything, it is simply intended to encourage all of us to move TOWARD, not away from, our colleagues who are temporarily in the “NOT” box with a caring heart and non-judgmental ear. Odds are, we may soon be there ourselves.