Weaving in Circle
Engaging in dialogue in Circle helps to create communities that are connected, supportive, and resilient.
You will now keep your first talking Circle. It can be as simple as inviting two friends or family members to try this way of dialogue with you as a first step. Below are the basic elements to help you prepare, facilitate, and reflect.
This detailed guide by Kay Pranis, a nationally recognized trainer and writer on Peacemaking Circles and restorative justice, includes examples of check-in and guiding questions:
- Determine people you will invite to the Circle, where you will meet, and the purpose of the Circle. A simple Talking Circle is a good place to start.
- Choose a talking piece. It is meaningful to choose a token that means something to you — a favorite stone or collectible can serve this purpose.
- Create an agenda. A simple one can include the following:
- Welcome everyone to the Circle
- Open the Circle by reading a poem, playing music, or offering a short reading to set the tone.
- Explain your role as facilitator, the purpose of the talking piece, how you will pass the talking piece clockwise (not across the Circle), and the use of the agreements.
- Create the Agreements with participants. Sample Agreements include:
- Be present in the moment
- Share the mic (take 1-2 minutes per question)
- Listen deeply
- Share your truth
- No “fixing” others (we are here to take our own journey)
- Suspend judgment and identify your own assumptions
- You can pass – we respect silence
- Maintain confidentiality
- Remember to breathe
- Begin the first round asking if each person can abide by the Agreements. Pass the talking piece and have each person respond. Changes can be made. If any are made, have another round to ensure agreement.
- The second round can be a one-word check in. How are people coming into the Circle.
- A warm up question for the third round can be, “What is your superpower?” or “Is there a story about how you were named or what your name means?”
- The following rounds can get deeper. See samples from Kay Pranis’ Handbook.
- The last round can include a one-word check out.
- You can close the Circle with another poem or reading.
- Thank everyone for coming.
Sample Case Activity
As a Circle keeper you have been asked by a community to help them discuss ways for this community to discuss ways to support our growing youth and elder community. How can our community create spaces where the Youth and Elder community can interact in positive ways? How can Elders and Community members build a stronger community together? What are programs that can be created or are their existing programs that can be used to foster relationships with the Elders and Youth?
As you prepare your Talking Circle experience, you will do the following:
- The Host organization should select a location for the Talking Circle that is accessible to all participants, free parking for cars and/or bicycles, be accessible to those with disabilities, have interpreters for those who speak other languages or are deaf and have a child care space for those who bring their children.
- Before the Circle is convened, you can now begin the ‘gathering process’. You can interview all participants to find out their hopes and aspirations for the Circle. Let each participant know that this part of the process is confidential unless they give permission to have their responses shared in the CIrcle. The ‘gathering’ is to gain better insight into what each participants’ hopes and needs are gathered from the process.
- Select your talking pieces for your Circle and your Centerpiece (Your talking pieces must have special meaning to you as the Circle Keeper. Be prepared to ‘on board’ your talking piece by telling a story of why it is special to you and why you have selected it to be in our talking Circle) Your CenterPiece which includes your rug where you will place your talking pieces and a plant to represent life (optional) will be placed in the Circle. You can also invite your participants to bring their own talking pieces to the Talking Circle. Make sure the participants know that others will touch your talking piece so encourage them to bring a talking piece that can not be easily damaged. If they bring a photograph, please put it in a plastic zip lock bag for added protection.
- After you have interviewed everyone, select your opening, closing ceremony, ice breakers, and mindfulness activities for the Talking Circle. The opening and closing ceremonies could be a poem, a song, or a musical selection to open the space and invite the participants into the Talking Circle. Keep in mind that the opening ceremony sets the tone for what you are going to be speaking about with the participants. The closing ceremony lets all participants know that the Circle is complete and we can all go back to our homes in a good way.* The ice breakers are activities that allow participants to get to know each other in a safe and fun way. (I will add some icebreakers I use in the appendix) The mindfulness activities can also be used to set the tone for the Circle and invite all participants to be present to their breath, mind, body and spirit.
- Now you are ready to invite the participants to do a series of rounds around the creation of their shared values and guidelines. When creating your shared values the material you will need are paper plates, crayons or markers. Invite each participant to this exercise by asking them to share a value that you need in the Circle to feel safe and feel connected to the space. An example of values they could share include: Respect, honesty, Inclusivity, Peace, Confidentiality, Hope, openness, etc. Invite each participant to write down their Values on their plates and ask each participant to place each plate in the center of the Circle.
- Now you are ready to create your shared guidelines. The guidelines allow for the participants to actualize the Values created in the previous round into actionable sentences. These guidelines include: Respect the Talking Piece, Honor Confidentiality, Listen with your head and heart. Start time for Circle and End Time of Circle. Once the Guidelines have been agreed upon through the Consensus decision-making process (see #9) You are ready to begin your conversation.
- Select the prompts you will be using for your talking Circles. The prompts can be specific questions or you can invite the participants to tell stories that connect them to each other. Each Prompt should build upon the relationship building process-Getting Acquainted, Building Trust, Decision-Making, Community-Building. Some examples include “Describe a time when you needed help from someone and they helped you. How did you feel and what did you need?” “Share a moment when the wisdom you received from someone helped with an issue or problem. Describe how it felt”. “Share three things we can do to support youth and elder engagement in our community”. Depending on the size of the CIrcle you can complete 1-2 rounds for these prompts to allow those that want to pass and listen to the participants and give those that want to speak on the topic multiple times to share.
- Once these rounds are completed, we can move to the Consensus decision-making process for this talking Circle. This is the place where the CIrcle begins to make concrete decisions on what was discussed.
- During the Consensus decision making rounds, participants will have the opportunity to ponder the subject and make decisions as each participant shares their thoughts on the matter. This part of the process may take longer depending on the subject discussed and the participants willingness to come to an agreement. As the Circle Keeper, you will ask by show of hands “Who disagrees with the decision moving forward and whichever participant raises their hand, they can choose a talking piece and begin the round. Each participant can then respond to the participant’s feelings on the matter. The decision on the matter is concluded when all of the participants can live with the decision made by the CIrcle. You can now perform the closing ceremony which could be a reading, a song or a musical selection.
- Now the Circle is ready to close. You can invite the participants to share any thoughts they have. Once everyone has shared, you can perform your closing ritual.
Join a Circle Group
Want to experience a Circle in action? New groups start every month.