Sonoma Family Life April 2018

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room after dinner, wherever is most comfortable for everyone. Cool down, chill out. It’s always good to wait until strong feelings of anger and fear have died down a little so that everyone can speak

The Gentle Art of Listening Ease Family Conflict with Sharing Circles

By Vicky Ness


re you mad at the kids for not doing the chores—again? Do fights break out among siblings more than seems possible? Whenever there is tension in your household, try communicating in a sharing circle. Our local nonprofit Restorative Resources uses circle dialogue practices that maintain an atmosphere of respect, compassion, and integrity to help people with disparate opinions and perspectives “talk it out” safely. We’ve brought this process to hundreds of classrooms throughout Sonoma County and have found that one of the first things many children want to do when they finish the program is use the techniques with their families. So what do they learn that can help you at home? First, how to create a safe space. Circle up! Our dialogues follow a universal practice of sitting in a circle before beginning any 10 SonomaFamilyLife

discussion. Centuries of cultures around the world have found that by circling in this way, everyone gets a chance to talk and mutual respect blooms. You can circle around a kitchen table or sitting in your living

Don’t wait for the next crazy-making crisis to occur before beginning your practice. from a place of reason, not a place of overwhelming emotion. Key to the process is the understanding that everybody has a right to their feelings, whatever those might be. Nobody needs to feel ashamed or afraid of expressing themselves as individuals with their own needs. And finally, it seems obvious, but sometimes difficult to actually do: Turn off phones and other devices, which can derail a conversation. Listen from the heart. It’s much easier to talk than to deeply listen. But if you want to truly and honestly hear what each person is saying, listen you must. The discussion goes nowhere if you simply listen to your own reactions and preconceived ideas. So try to imagine how the story feels from the other person’s point of view. If something comes up that’s uncomfortable for you to hear, take a deep breath and give your emotions space to sort themselves out before you respond. Take your time, take your turn. There is no need to rush to judge or blame. Just as each person has the right to speak, so each one has the right to be heard without interruption

April 2018