RESTORATIVE CONTAINER BUILDING We Support You To Have The Courage To Connect To Resolve Conflict
Building a Trusting Container
Permission is often assumed by the person who gives it, that is they think you understand that you have permission to do or say something. But it is also often not felt permitted by the receiver.
In my conversations with teams and colleagues this often boils down to a simple dynamic where people can feel that even if they have permission to feel, do or say something, they are then punished, judged or devalued for having said, felt or done it, especially if it has challenged someone in a position of power.
Being more explicit about the components of real permission will help to build safe cultures where colleagues and students can take the risk to express their needs without fear of judgement or reprisal and so connect your teams and classes more collaboratively.
This is a simple exercise you can do with your colleagues or students to encourage trust and open communication and it also builds common understanding and connection as students and colleagues begin to realise they are not alone in what they need to learn / work productively.
All you need is some post it notes, pens, a flip chart and a large wall to stick the post it's on.
Step One: Give everyone three post it notes. Step Two: Introduce the Topic
Examples of topics I have used in the past with team are:
What do I need to learn safely?
What do I need to challenge those in authority safely?
What do I need to listen to you clearly?
What do I need to be heard clearly?
What do I need to be able to balance home and work in a healthy way?
What do I need to do solve this problem?
What do I need to build this relationship?
Step Three: Ask everyone to write on the first post it "I need permission to" ... and then fill in what they need permission to do / say or feel from others. You will initially need about 5 minutes for this part. As you practice this way of container building / or trust building more and more often people will be able to tune into their needs more and more quickly.
Step Four: Ask everyone to put their post it's on the wall and then spend some time walking around reading the post it's. (Encourage people not to talk or express aloud during this time).
Step Five: In response to what they have read on the wall, ask everyone to write on both of their second and third post it's "I will demonstrate you have permission to (fill in the expressed need) by (fill in the behaviour you will demonstrate to meet this need)"
Step Six: Place these post it's on the wall and spend some time walking around and reading the post it's. (Encourage people not to talk or express aloud during this time).
Step Seven: Come back to the large group and ask people to comment on what they found interesting, helpful, surprising, worrying, reassuring about the needs and responses to the needs expressed.
Step Eight: On the flip chart write up the permissions that are given by the group to others to meet their needs and the behaviours they agree to demonstrate. You may want to integrate some of the responses together if they are similar.
Step Nine: Note if any needs were expressed that we not met and ask people to think about why they feel unable to meet that need. Was it unclearly expressed? Was it considered not valuable by the group (this in itself is an area for honest discussion) or was it felt to be unreasonable or enfringing on someone else's basic rights? Then ask again as a group:
What do we need permission to be able to ....(fill in the expressed need)
I give permission to ... (fill in the behaviour you will demonstrate to meet the expressed need).
Step Ten: Close the exercise with a commitment to work to demonstrate your permission for people to express their needs and have these met to the best of your ability. Agree a timescale to review these again in the future.
LJ Sayers is a restorative practitioner, trainer, mum, partner, mediocre saxophonist and chief quality controller of all chocolate in her home.