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  • Circle ProcessIn keeping with the spirit of Conflict Resolution Month (raising awareness of dispute resolution processes), I often hear of arbitration, mediation, and negotiation. Rarely have I come across an individual who speaks of Circle Processes, specifically Peacemaking Circles. The Circle Process allows for each party involved in the process to share their story and be heard in a safe space. When stories are shared, it gives each participant listening a view into the speaker’s life. Circle Processes are currently being used worldwide, and originated from the indigenous tradition of Talking Circles.

    Who controls the Circle Process and what does it look like?
    Each circle process has a facilitator or keeper. The facilitator is responsible for maintaining a safe space in order to maintain the constructive dialogue between each participant. During a circle process, the following takes place.
    • A talking piece such as a rain stick, feather, or stress ball is used to regulate the conversation. The person who holds the talking piece may speak without interruption which allows participants to focus on listening.
    • Participants set guidelines for how they will behave in order to maintain a safe space.
    • The process begins and ends with an activity that establishes the circle as a safe space and centers the participants.
    • Decision-making is carried out as a consensus; each participant must be willing to live with the decision made and its implementation. The key to this aspect is relationship-building. The circle enables the participants to see beyond the issues that have brought them there and connect with the participants.

    What is the Circle Process used for?
    • When a decision needs to be made collectively
    • There is a disagreement amongst multiple parties
    • To discuss an experience that resulted in some type of harm (e.g. personal injury, property damage, emotional harm)

    Where is the Circle Process being used?
    • Schools
    • Neighborhoods
    • Workplaces
    • Justice System/Prisons

    According to Kay Pranis, a leader in restorative justice and the co-author of Peacemaking Circles: From Crime to Community and Doing Democracy with Circles, there are a variety of uses for circle dialogues. Here are different types of Circles below:

    Talking Circles – Allows participants to explore a topic or issue from the various perspectives around the room.
    Circles of Understanding – Focused on understanding an aspect of conflict or situation
    Healing Circles – Share the pain of a person or persons who have experienced trauma or loss
    Sentencing Circles – A community directed process in partnership with the criminal justice system.
    Support Circles – Brings people together to support a particular person during a life change
    Community Building Circles – Foster bonds and build relationships between a group or groups of people who have a shared interest.
    Conflict Circles – brings disputing parties together to resolve differences
    Reintegration Circle – Brings together an individual and a group or community from which that individual has been estranged
    Celebration or Honoring Circles – Bring together a group of people to recognize an individual or group.

    Circle Processes provide participants with the ability to tap into what we are as humans. It builds a connection between participants on an emotional and spiritual level allowing for the sharing of experiences that provides insight into understanding one another and providing inner peace. Find out what practitioners are in your state, and find the circle that is right for you.

    You may learn about other restorative justice practices such as Peacemaking in schools with Bill Sower and Susan Butterwick, or Community Conferencing with Lauren Abramson, by visiting the Texas Conflict Coach® website.

    By Tracy Culbreath
    Graduate Student, University of Baltimore – Negotiation and Conflict Management Program

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  • CRDayWebBanner2014

    In 2005 the Association for Conflict Resolution (ACR) established a worldwide initiative- Conflict Resolution Day, which occurs every third Thursday in October. The purpose of this day is for dispute resolution practitioners to celebrate and raise awareness about conflict resolution methods such as mediation, arbitration, conciliation, etc. The logo designed for this event is a tree rooted in the ground with leaves that depict the avenues in which an individual can resolve conflict: mediation, conciliation, facilitation, arbitration, negation. Our logo of the tree was designed as a symbol to celebrate growth in Conflict Resolution. The first year, start small, but just like the tree the seeds you plant one year, will continue to grow and blossom each year (ACR.com). As an annual occasion, many organizations have established numerous events/programs in honor of Conflict Resolution Day. This year on October 16th the following programs/events are being held (please note this is only a partial list):

    Conflict Resolution Day Activity Suggestions:

    • Create conflict resolution promotional material and distribute it to the public on Conflict Resolution Day
    • Hold a conflict resolution workshop at a local college or university
    • Recognize conflict resolution leaders and or volunteers in your community
    • Produce t-shirts, mugs or other items supporting conflict resolution
    • Propose story ideas to print and broadcast media

    What will you do to celebrate Conflict Resolution Day?

    To learn more about Conflict Resolution Day visit the ACRnet.org click on the home page/education & training/conflict resolution day.

    By Yvette Watson Jenkins

    Graduate Student, University of Baltimore – Negotiation and Conflict Management Program

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  • cultural-awarenessOn March 31st, the U.S. Army rolled out Army Regulation 670-1, which addresses unauthorized hairstyles; many of which are popular among African American women for example cornrows, twists, and braids. As a woman with chemical free hair, also known as “natural” hair, I was shocked when this news came across my iPhone timeline. Many believe the new grooming guidelines are insensitive to women with natural hair and pin points the African American community. The U.S. Army can be depicted as having a lack of cultural sensitivity, offensive, or biased. Michelle LeBaron (2003) suggests, “Culture is an essential part of conflict and conflict resolution. Cultures are like underground rivers that run through our lives and relationships, giving us messages that shape our perceptions, attributions, judgments, and ideas of self and other. Though cultures are powerful, they are often unconscious, influencing conflict and attempts to resolve conflict in imperceptible ways”. The conflict between the U.S. Army and African American women in the army is just one of many cultural mishaps occurring in today’s world. As a society with an abundance presence of diversity how does one become culturally aware so not to offend?

    Culture awareness is being thoughtful and mindful of one another’s cultural values, beliefs, perceptions, body image (clothing, hair, and jewelry), religion, race, language, etc. As a stepping stone to become more culturally aware I would suggest first understanding the definition of culture. Second, be conscious of the assumptions you make about another. Misconceptions do not allow you to see the person for who they are, but for what you assume they are. These false assumptions can perhaps create conflict. For example, my husband told me about a time where he entered the school office and said “good morning” to everyone and noticed one of the young lady’s did not speak back. The second and third day he did the same thing; still no response from the young lady. As a result, he felt disrespected and perceived the young lady as rude and ill-mannered. In speaking with a friend, he learned her culture did not allow for speaking to the opposite sex. This was an eye opener for my husband and me as neither of us had been aware of such.

    As a result of the previous cultural misunderstanding, I have come up with three ways to better ourselves and become more culturally aware – (1) be open to learning about other cultures (2) establish a diverse networking group; and (3) ask questions to gain more understanding. All in all, in a multicultural society it is important to have cultural awareness. Not doing so will only contribute to cultural ignorance. Furthermore, if one is not willing to understand or gain knowledge about another’s culture then there will always be misunderstanding, perceived notions or false assumptions.

    “I do not want my house to be walled in on all sides and my windows to be stuffed. I want the cultures of all the lands to be blown about my house as freely as possible. But I refuse to be blown off my feet by any.” Mahatma Gandhi

    By Yvette Watson Jenkins
    Graduate Student, University of Baltimore – Negotiation and Conflict Management Program

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Welcome to Texas Conflict Coach®. I am your host Pattie Porter, conflict resolution expert, mediator, conflict coach, facilitator and speaker. - Read More



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