The Art of Authentic Conversations ~ Conversations That Matter!
"Change the chairs, change the world!"
Circle Works! is about the importance of authentic and dynamic dialogue. A lot of people are frustrated with their usual experience of talking and sharing in groups. We at Circle Works! help couples, families, students, community groups, church members, colleagues, organizations, companies and their teams have the conversations they need to have and achieve the results they are looking for. We help you host conversations that are meaningful, conversations that truly matter.
Sometimes when couples, families, groups, or organizations try to problem-solve or improve relationship difficulties, unhelpful patterns, or ways of being, they may create obstacles that can make a healthy conversation impossible. The following are examples of how this may happen:
- Someone may not hold eye contact with the person with whom they are speaking
- A person's body language might communicate that she or he is closed off to listening or finding solutions
- While one person is speaking, the listener may be planning his or her responses instead of deeply listening to what is being said
- While one person is speaking, others may interrupt or overpower the speaker verbally
- Someone may not believe that a solution is possible or that others will make any changes and therefore refuse to participate
At Circle Works!, we facilitate difficult conversations in ways that help group members move beyond these painful obstacles towards conversations that form new and more effective patterns. We help our clients learn good communication skills, such as mutual respect and deep listening, which results in the cultivation of compassionate conversations. In the process, group members learn to share ideas, build trust, resolve conflicts, make better decisions, and build stronger relationships where each person is truly connected to the others.
When we help to create Transformational Circles with you (or with your organization) we draw from timeless knowledge about the power of Circles. Different cultures and lineages, like Native American traditions, have used Circle Wisdom. They followed more or less the same fundamental principles as we do in Circle Works! and have influenced our philosophy and practice. In addition to Native American traditions, we are inspired by and learned from The Circle Way, World Café, Open Space Technology, Story Telling - Story Harvesting and others.
The Circle is a universal symbol for wholeness and for inter-connectedness. When we practice Circle Conversations we arrange the chairs in the round so that we all can see each other and feel more connected.
While sitting in the Circle and sharing what's important to us we are following certain agreed upon rules and honoring healthy boundaries. We create a peaceful space where everybody can feel safe and talk without being judged. The Circle Practice allows us to experience a place where we can be who we are.
When we meet to practice Circle Conversations we have the opportunity to gather purposefully, to inspire and get inspired. We agree to move towards that which will allow us to unfold or grow.
What is different in CircleWorks compared with other groups who just sit in a circle together? Our Circles have certain elements and roles that specifically support respectful and peaceful dialogue. Here are some elements that we implement:
- Opening the Circle
- Creating a Sacred Center
- Setting Circle Agreements
- Using a Talking Piece
- Reserving time for Discussion
- Engaging in Problem Solving Conversations (if desired)
- Inviting a member of the Circle to Guard the Process
- Asking a Member of the Circle to be a Timekeeper
- Closing the Circle
The following Circle agreements were adapted from Christina Baldwin's book (Calling the Circle: First and Future Generations) and are helpful guidelines to provide a safe space for people in Circles:
- What is said in the circle belongs to the circle.
- The circle is a practice in discernment, not judgment.
- Each person takes responsibility for asking the circle for the support she or he wants or needs.
- Each person takes responsibility for agreeing or not agreeing to participate in specific requests.
- Anyone in the Circle may call for silence, time out, or ritual to re-establish focus, to re-center, or to remember the need for spiritual guidance.
- Agreements are adaptable. If something is not working, revise the agreements and maintain the process.
We learn how to talk mindfully and intentionally. One person at a time speaks. The speaker holds a so-called 'talking piece,' which indicates that no else will talk until he or she is done. Once the speaker is finished, the talking stick is passed to the next person, who speaks without interruption. This process continues until everyone in the Circle has had a chance to contribute to the conversation. It has been our experience that soon after we begin sharing in this way, things start to change for the better. As Christina Baldwin, author of the book Calling the Circle, puts it: "A Circle is not just a meeting with the chairs rearranged. A Circle is a way of doing things differently than we have become accustomed to. The Circle is a return to our original form of community as well as a leap forward to create a new form of community." In addition to the practice of using a talking piece, Transformational Circles include other practices that promote compassionate communication. For a description of the roles and elements of Circle Works, click here.
In The Circle we invite what truly has heart and meaning and this makes all the difference. Sharing our stories and our worries and being really heard in a respectful and compassionate way is part of the growing and healing that makes Transformational Circle Work so special and make effective solutions possible. It also often creates results that hadn't been experienced before because we access the collective wisdom of the entire group.
As we mentioned before, a lot of people are frustrated with their usual experience of talking and sharing in groups. Transformational Circle Conversations are different. They are a core process for effecting change.
To Sum It Up:
When we participate in Transformational Circle Work:
- We authentically engage with one another to accomplish a common intention
- We become more efficient and effective in finding peaceful solutions that focus on the greater good
- We discover that Circle Work draws from the individual wisdom in the room to generate collective wisdom
We do this by learning that:
- Every voice will be heard
- We can collaborate on community or work-related solutions in a different way
- We become better listeners
- We become more thoughtful and insightful speakers
- We benefit by focusing on our commonalities and honoring our differences
- We can truly be in relationship with each other
- We can translate the collective wisdom of the group into action
- We feel encouraged and empowered when we are working with Transformative Circle Work
To listen to an audio recording of a speech Gila and Elaine gave about the power of transformational circles, click here.