Circle started around the cook-fires of humanity’s ancestors and has accompanied us ever since. We remember this space. When we listen, we speak more thoughtfully. We lean in to shared purpose.
Circle methodology will be familiar to those who have have come across it on retreats, on personal development workshops and on large scale community initiatives, but it is much less common in the corporate world.
Possibly because circle principles lean more towards the feminine than the masculine way of working.
The Enneagram and Leadership workshops are conducted using Circle Principles.
The following has been abridged from the work of Christina Baldwin in the Circle Way.
COMPONENTS OF CIRCLE
What transforms a meeting into a circle is the willingness of people to shift from informal socialising or opinionated discussion into a receptive attitude of thoughtful speaking and deep listening that embodies the practices and structures outlined here.
Intention shapes the circle and determines who will come, how long the circle will meet, and what kinds of outcomes are to be expected.
SETTING THE CENTER
The centre of the circle is like the hub of a wheel: all energies pass through it, and it holds the rim together. To help people remember how the hub helps the group, the centre of a circle usually holds objects that represent the intention of the circle.
The circle of friends candle holder sits at the centre of each of my workshop.
Check-in helps people into a frame of mind for circle and reminds of the commitment to the expressed intention. It insures that people are truly present. Verbal sharing, especially a brief story, weaves the interpersonal net. Check-in usually starts with a volunteer and proceeds around the circle, although sometimes it may be conducted “popcorn” style. If an individual is not ready to speak, the turn is passed and another opportunity is offered after others have spoken.
My role, as well as being a trainer/coach, is to act as the circle guardian to bring the circle back to intention, watch needs, timings and energy.
SETTING CIRCLE AGREEMENTS
The use of agreements allows all members to have a free and profound exchange, to respect a diversity of views, and to share responsibility for the well-being and direction of the group. Agreements may include:
We hold all stories or personal information confidential
We listen to each other with compassion and curiosity
We ask for what we need and offer what we can
We agree to employ the group guardian to watch our needs, timing and energy
We do not interrupt each other when the talking piece is in the circle
We can show our agreement silently using an agreed signal when we recognise a shared experience
- I will take the role to lead the circle bringing my knowledge and experience to the circle
- All Pod members will bring their knowledge and experience to the circle with responsibility being shared for the quality of the overall experience
- Responsibility is shared by all circle members to bring forward topics and live issues to be discussed together in the Pod
- Speak with intention: noting what has relevance to the conversation in the moment
- Listen with attention: respectful of the learning process for all members of the group
- Tend to the well-being of the circle: remaining aware of the impact of our contributions
FORMS OF CONVERSATION
- A “Talking Piece” will be used as part of check-in, check-out and whenever there is a desire to slow down the conversation, collect all voices and contributions, and be able to speak without interruption. Each Pod has their own unique talking piece.
- Conversation is used when reaction, interaction and an interjection of new ideas, thoughts and opinions are needed.
- Silent reflection gives each member time and space to reflect on what is occurring, or needs to occur, in the course of a meeting. Silence may be called so that each person can consider the role or impact they are having on the group, or to help the group realign with their intention, or to sit with a question until there is clarity.
CHECK-OUT AND FAREWELL
At the close of a circle meeting, each person is invited to comment on what they learned, or what stays in their heart and mind as they leave.
Closing the circle by checking out provides a formal end to the meeting, a chance for members to reflect on what has transpired.
After everyone has checked-out, I draw the circle to a close and extinguish the candle before the circle is released.
As people shift from circle to social space, they release each other from the intensity of attention being in circle requires.
From time to time, Pods will then move into a shared social space over a drink or dinner.