Connecting through Sharing Circles

I have so appreciated learning about, being involved in and running sharing circles. Sometimes sharing circles are called circles of trust, and talking circles. It is well worthwhile searching for these on the internet as there are excellent books available on these topics. Sharing circles seem to have been part of traditional life for many indigenous peoples living traditional lives. I first came across the process in men’s groups, then in rites of passage work with teenage boys – www.pathwaysfoundation.com.au – and then when I studied Sociocracy I found that The Circle Meeting is an important tool in their business governance – www.sociocracy.info. Some of my thoughts about Sharing Circles are in Sitting at the Table Together.

I have been sharing my learnings about sharing circles in the workplace while running Communication Skills workshops.

The ‘thinking systems’ I use for listening and in circle meetings are shown in the diagrams below. The most important part is developing Listening skills. My approach is for a new group or if a new member is present is to:

  1. Share the ‘rules’ for the conversation and then introduce a particular topic.
  2. Very briefly introduce the topic. I may have circulated notes on the topic prior to the meeting.
  3. Invitation to share their experiences. My experience is that the people in the group gain most benefit when they share their experiences with the topic using the rules of listening, talking from the I, no advice, no judgment and confidentiality. We often use a talking stick as a tool to assist in listening.

The collective wisdom in the group always provides great examples and I find that people then practice the skills they have shared at work and perhaps most importantly at home with their families.

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