People say that you have to pour all of your emotion into this stranger who’s supposed to eventually become your best friend. Even if you know that this best friend, with whom you share all of your secrets with, might potentially not speak or spend time with you again. That possibility was (and still is) a very realistic fear in my opinion. I know I’ve had my fair share of tough breakups and I wish I was able to communicate how I truly felt in a moment of vulnerability, curiosity, discomfort, and even joy.
My girlfriend and I have disagreements at times. These disagreements have solutions that are generally simple but require honesty. They require both of us to be vulnerable with one another; and that’s intimidating! Recently, we learned that both of us value validation, but experience it in different ways and thus perceive it differently. As a consequence, if one of us is going through a week filled with assignments, we might not receive that validation the same way we would if the stress wasn’t present. Thankfully, our conversations are guided in a restorative manner and we grow together. As weird as it sounds, by using the affective statements model, I am able to use a framework that explains how a particular action or event affected me. Furthermore, I have learned to share my thoughts without invalidating the thoughts of my partner or anyone else I have conversations with for that matter.
I began to do this last semester when I had the pleasure of partaking in the Restorative Justice House Course along with eight different Duke students whom I now call friends. Our discussions ranged from solving conflict and how to effectively work through it to why we like Duke and what our favorite cuisines were. We developed a strong foundation, learned to utilize restorative practices and were equipped with the tools to create a space where everyone can speak freely.
The result was beyond my expectations. We held circles on a weekly basis and became extremely close. For once, I was comfortable with being vulnerable and sharing certain aspects about my life that not many individuals have been privy to. We made plans throughout the semester to see each other in a COVID friendly manner and have continued to stay in touch.
In RJ, we focus on building community by giving everyone a chance to speak their mind. The emphasis on human connectivity and the encouragement of everyone to be comfortable in sharing their truths and their emotions is a true pillar of RJ. With this practice, you’re also one step closer to improving your interpersonal relationships in lasting ways. I am thankful that RJ extends beyond academic spaces, and that it has given me a new way to approach tough conversations in my personal life.