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Words Create Worlds – A Language of Fairness

“Words create worlds.” I love this quote, though I don´t know who said it originally. It has been attributed to philosophers including Heschel and Wittgenstein, and I’ve heard the phrase used often by colleagues whose work also focuses on the importance of language and conversation.

I’ve been facilitating virtual Workplace Restoration workshops which has provided me with the opportunity to dig deeper into the language we use to provide clarity about the work we do, especially the language of Fairness.  How might this language apply in our workplace environments in general?  What if our leaders were omnipartial, equitable and supported employees?  I’m wondering if the language of fairness has also been missing in our global conversations and leaders in the last few years.  Here are a few words that create our world;

Omnipartial vs Impartial

The essence of being omnipartial is being on the side of all parties in a conflict, or participants in a restoration – for the best of all. It is a stance more engaged than an impartial or neutral position, being committed to bringing a process that does not unfairly advantage any participant at the expense of any other participant. Impartiality implies objectivity and distance from those involved and their situation, not pointing out unique conflict dynamics or not sharing the layers and complexity of the conflict.  It is not impartiality that participants desire, but the appearance of neutrality, empathy and the ability to find the connection between everyone’s stories.  Kenneth Cloke, a well-known mediator talks more about omnipartiality in his book Mediating Dangerously: The Frontiers of Conflict Resolution.

Equity vs Equality

The definition of equity is the quality of being fair and impartial. Equality is also related to fairness in the dynamic of treating everyone the same. Equity is giving everyone what they need to be successful. Equality aims to promote fairness, but it can only work if everyone starts from the same place and needs the same support. A good example is shown here where runners begin a race at different places because their lane may be shorter/longer than the others.

In conflict and restoration, we understand that participants are starting from different places depending on how the situation impacts them and their psychological health.  We also recognize their position in the organization may make a difference as does their need for job security.  As restoration professionals we must take these issues into account and ensure that the process is equitable for all.

Support vs Help

Supporting someone is being committed to a person during the restoration journey, while allowing them to do their part in terms of acknowledging their role and undertaking the necessary shifts required to change the situation. Supporting someone empowers them, as it comes from connecting to them as an equal and understanding that they have the power within them to step into what is needed and rise above their current challenge.

Helping someone occurs when we perceive that person as a victim and judge that they are incapable of stepping into what is needed or feel that we need to do the work for them.  This ties into the victim, villain, hero triangle and we are put in the position of playing the hero or fixing the problem for all.  During our restoration work I am always clear about my role, not as the fixer, but as the supporter to bring a process for all participants to take part in to successfully move forward.

Hopefully the above provides a glimpse into the rich discussions that took place in our Restoration Training Workshop.  It’s a purposeful environment for those working in this area or hoping to work in this area, to come together in growth and learning.  I know that even in my role as facilitator, there are consistent learning opportunities.

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