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6 Steps for a Restorative Conversation


Relate NI is a charity with a mission to make expert information and support for healthy relationships available for everyone. Many people turn to relationship counselling when things have already gotten really bad, and while we can provide support at this stage, we are also here whenever you need. Whether we’re working with you as an individual, your children, you and your partner or with your entire family, we have a relationship support service that can help you. 


Relate NI’s Development Manager, Kellie O’Dowd, has shared top tips for a restorative conversation. 

One of the participants from a Sustaining Healthy Relationships workshop recently, one of the participants asked about advice for restoring a relationship after an argument or conflict so I have prepared this blog in response. This can apply to children, friends, family or romantic relationships. 

However, if the other person isn’t interested in maintaining the relationship or is unwilling to have a restorative conversation, then there is nothing that you can do but to wait until they are ready or wish them well.

Here are 6 steps that you can use to have a restorative conversation and remember, these are suggestions. The most important thing is to convey compassion and authenticity to the other person. 


Step 1

At the right time and in the right place, open the lines of communication. Let the person know that you will listen to them and their perspectives, then do just that. This is not the time for advice, lectures or judgement.

Say: 

  • “How’s it going? I wanted to talk with you about _______”


Step 2

Allow them to explain the situation from their perspective. Try to see the situation from their point of view. Remember that people may often feel very differently about the same event. 

Say:

  • “What happened?”

  • “Can you tell me more about ______”

  • “What were you thinking at the time?”

  • “What were you feeling?”

  • “Actively listen and then summarise what you have learned, ‘so what you’re telling me is…’”


Step 3

Identify what led up to the incident and any root causes. Help the person gain a greater understanding of the situation by asking about what happened before or what else may have affected their behaviour.

Say:

  • “It sounds like you felt ______. What made you feel that way?”

  • “What happened before it started?”

  • “What else do you think was going on with_____?”

  • “Has this happened before?”


Step 4

Identify the impact.

Help the person to see how their behaviour affected those around them. They may need help understanding consequences they can’t see, such as hurt feelings.

Say: 

  • “What happened to you? To your friend? To your family?”

  • “What have you thought about since?”

  • “Who else do you think has been affected/ upset/ harmed by your actions? How?”

  • “When I heard/ saw ______, I felt ______ because I ___________.”

  • “What role do you think you played in this situation?”

  • “How do you feel now?”


Step 5

Address needs and repair harm. Help the person decide how to make things better or solve the problem. Lead them to a resolution they can feel good about, even if it is a consequence. 

Say: 

  • “What can you do to make things better?”

  • “If you were _____, what do you think you would need?”

  • “What do you need to help you do that?”

  • “What would you like to see happen?”

  • “What could you do differently next time?”


Step 6

Create an agreement.

This may be a verbal agreement, a checklist or even a written letter or contract. Remember to follow through on the promises that you make.

Say:

  • “Based on our talk, I heard that you will _______. I will also ________.”

  • “Can we agree on this plan?”

  • “I’m going to check on you in a while and see how things are going”

  • “Thank you for sharing with me. I’m so happy we can work together to make things better!”


If you require further relationship support, Relate NI have a range of therapeutic support services, as well as a full suite of free online self- help resources


You can give us a call on 028 9032 3454, email us at office@relateni.org or visit our website, www.relateni.org 


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