When you speak sitting in a circle something magical happens. You listen and speak from a more genuine level and the potential of your group rises. The power of circle can be applied in settings as diverse as the corporate boardroom and the kindergarten schoolyard. Circle practices promote inclusivity, connection, and creativity.
By circle I mean speaking one-at-a-time around the circle in the order in which you are sitting. There are no comments or questions. More formal circles eliminate tables; however, comfort or room layout frequently dictates the inclusion of a table that is habitually used by a team or group.
Here are a few easy applications that will allow you to begin to appreciate the power and usefulness of circles:
– Check-ins at the beginning of meetings. People will listen more attentively to what others say and make better use of it.
– Hearing everyone’s view on a crucial topic. Those who are quieter will be heard and those who are louder will tend to have their input modulated.
– A conversation about working relationships. Of all the facilitation methods, circles are most potent at deepening a conversation and building consensus at a foundational level.
Even going only once around the circle can benefit your team or group. There is no need to continue the practice for an entire meeting.
As a group member you can introduce the practice in a spontaneous and unobtrusive manner: “Let’s hear from everyone one at a time on this issue.” If the group picks up your suggestion, you will often find that people will speak in the order of sitting. If not, you can add, “It will be easier to know who is next if we speak in the order of sitting. That means you next Jen.”
Making use of several formalities enhances the power of circle. One is sitting in a symmetrical circle. If your team notices advantage to the method, then you can suggest adjusting seating as you begin to use the circle method. Some groups benefit from a talking piece. You may also develop some supportive guidelines.
As with all practices more understanding and skill will increase the potential benefit of circles. Moreover, a relatively small amount of learning can empower one to facilitate constructive outcomes that would otherwise be extremely challenging.