Ok, so you’ve done some RP training, really like the ideas and feel it would be great for your school or centre to implement. You start telling people all about it and your colleagues are telling you they like the idea but they are just not really taking it on all that much. Or, alternatively, they are saying they like the idea, are willing to try it, but telling you in the next breath why it won’t really work – “we need to have everyone trained if it’s to work”, “that only works in schools/America/young kids/older kids” or other such line. And you’re thinking, “why don’t they just do it”? You’re frustrated beyond belief with your colleagues, and your only relief is the occasional thought of GBH. I mean, they’ve been complaining for years about how bad things are and, now you’ve hit on the solution to their problems, and, they just don’t want to know. It doesn’t make sense. Except, and here’s the thing that might surprise you, it DOES make sense. Trust me.
What you’ve actually hit on is the fact that change is hard and quite often misunderstood. We fear change, or, we fear the work we have to do when confronted by it. We also doubt it’s going to be worth the effort. What if we do loads of work, make a big effort to learn all this new stuff and things stay the same? What if it makes things worse? There’s lots of ways to talk yourself into not doing something. Just to be clear, I’m not talking about the Resistors or Sceptics on the team who will tell you straight up they don’t like this new fad and may even work against it (I’ll come back to those another time). I’m talking about the reasonable people you work with, who generally do a pretty good job, who you think should be getting this a lot sooner but who just don’t seem to be getting it or making the effort. I’ll say it again though, it all makes sense IF we take the time to look for the sense.
Here’s three reasons why RP (or anything else for that matter) takes time to embed.
1. People are afraid to change. We are afraid to step outside our comfort zone, to risk making a mistake or looking foolish (because let’s face it, we will be making a few mistakes and looking a little foolish while we are getting the hang of it). We are afraid for lots of reasons. And we have plenty of ways to mask these fears (see the excuses above again).
2. People act on what they expect not what they want. They might say they want RP and the promise of better relationships, but they just don’t believe it will make a difference. And because they expect it won’t work they don’t make the effort you’d like or what they need to see the results.
3. It takes time. I’m not being funny here when I say the reason it takes time is… it takes time. Let’s face it we are all impatient these days. We want results yesterday. We see the fancy presentations, Youtube clips, motivational stories, statistics about how well it works elsewhere and we want that now, or, by the end of next week at the latest. We’re just impatient for success. And, unfortunately, there’s rarely a shortcut.
So, I’ve told you three reasons why change is hard and why it takes time to implement RP. I suppose it’s only fair I give three answers or solutions to the problem based on what I’ve learned so far to help with all this.
1. Acknowledge the fears of people. See that when they tell “you need to train the whole team” or something like this, what they are really saying is “I’m afraid, please help me”. Acknowledge these hidden feelings. We are taught to do it with the young people we work with. Now try to do it for your colleagues. “I’m guessing you’re nervous about seeing a new theory being introduced and you need some support. How can I help?” Something like this will go a long way.
2. Similar to the above point, try to tap into what they might be expecting. “Is it that you expect this won’t work? When you think that you must feel pretty deflated about the prospect of all this work ahead? What would you really like to see happen with RP? What’s one thing you can do today/this week to make that happen? How can I help?” As the social discipline window says, work WITH people.
3. Finally, just accept it will take time. No dressing this one up. It’s going to take time. You don’t really think you can master RP in a day or two, do you? I know I didn’t. In fact, I don’t know anyone who mastered anything straight away. So, be kind to yourself. Allow yourself the permission to make mistakes (and equally don’t be afraid to acknowledge those mistakes to yourself and to others!) In fact the more mistakes you make the faster you’re probably learning, because that means you are trying. So just try it out and allow the change to happen.
Until the next time.
My name is Joe Power and I am the restorative practice development officer in Limerick since May 2018. I first came to RP in 2016 when it was introduced to the residential centre where I also work. I thought I would start to write a little about my experiences in developing both my own understanding of RP, as well as my experiences in trying to spread RP across Limerick. The reason for this is that I find that both my and other people's experiences are remarkably similar and there could well be some opportunity for other's to benefit from these thought (or ramblings!!). Anyway I hope you gain something from it. Also please e-mail any thoughts/comments/stories you might have to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you.