Restorative Justice Circles talking or transformation, using key elements for change.

St. Croix Valley Restorative Justice Program (www.scvrjp.org) has been doing 100’s of Circles a year, since 2006.  In that time we have successfully placed topics in the center of the Circle.  We have consistently used a structure, based on the work of Kay Pranis (more posts referencing Kay).  The key elements of a Restorative Justice Circles, have been featured in two books by Kay, the Little Book of Circle Process and Peacemaking Circles from Crime to Community.

These Circle experience spans school settings, severe crime and significant loss, to staff meetings structured with Circle and our many Circles held to address public health issues in our community.  Highlighted in this post, are the rationale and reasons for using the key elements.  Talking Circles provide connection and potential to repair harm.  To transform the way people see themselves and others in connection to community and to transform behavior instantly, try the Restorative Justice Peacemaking Circle Elements, as described here.

A few of the commonly skipped or overlooked Key Elements:  Consensus to Values, 4 Stages.  A Restorative Justice Peacemaking Circle is more than just using a talking piece.

Consensus to Values This aspect of Circle is more than just having people write on a paper plate.  This aspect is also designed to pull people together in a community that has decided how they will relate to each other.  The first steps of “community” if not geography, would be common interests.  A specific pass of the talking piece asking people to reflect on the values in the center, as part of the way of being together, deepens the connection before exploring topics, facing challenges or repairing harm.

4 Stages  (I am assuming you know these, there are many posts here highlighting) When we take time to do some questions, before the deeper conversation, or intention of the Circle, we are reminding people that we can make important connections by caring and learning about each other.  The simple content provides a context for common likes, it builds connection.  Some of my favorites lately have been to ask people about the next big accomplishment.  Fun results when I asked another training group to share 3 things about their shoes.

The final part when using the 4 stages, is to give opportunity for people in the Circle to identify their “take aways” or reflections on the experience.  This serves for people to identify quickly and immediately the benefit of the experience.  Like speaking to the Center in Circle promotes self – agency, so does speaking to your experience at the end of the Circle.  The use of the last phase helps us know we did good work together, it is another opportunity to allow people to share from the wise-centered part of who they are.  When doing Circles around trauma or emotionally heavy topics, it allows people to  prepare for returning to the un-structured everyday communication styles.

When you do more in Circle, than just employe a talking piece, you are creating space for safety.  Safety promotes vulnerability, vulnerability becomes a responsibility (tweet me) and a responsible keeper uses that for the greater good of  all in Circle.  Using the stages show respect and places the power, in each person and the Center of the Circle.

Key Elements Restorative Justice Circle

Peacemaking Circle Keeping 3 intentions, 3 activities, please.

I’ve been traveling and training and learning more and more what people are calling “Circle” and I am getting more and more concerned that we are missing some key elements.  Good work can be done in Circle.  Transformation, growth and self-discovery can be multiplied when we keep from a grounded center in the practice and elements of Restorative Justice Peacemaking Circle process.  The foundation from Kay Pranis and the Little Book of Circles.  I’ve got 3 key intentions to use in your Circle keeping and then 3 activities to help promote those intentions.  These crossover and support each other, they help support each other.

When Circle Keeping, your role is to guide the process, as a model.  That means modeling a “Circle Hierarchy”, which would be an oxymoron!  The structure of Circle is one of equal dignity and worth.  A concept I have worked hard at teaching teachers is a different skill-set than classroom teaching.  The intentions of your Circles work best when coming from this place of equality.

Circle Intentions

It is not easy, you let go of commenting, redirecting, controlling the Circle.  The use of equality means taking time to offer opportunities to learn how Circle works best (vs ‘teaching’ it).  This works, and I know this from 1,000’s of Circles and the stories from those that keep Circle using this intention.

Coming from a place of Values, is another Circle intention.  This means living them as keeper.  Modeling them for everyone in Circle.  In a casual conversation some keepers shared with me, how they ask the kid that won’t share to say more.  That is disrupting the equality, and not instilling the value of respect.

Those plates, or the co-created Center guidelines are the foundation and Center of Circle, the basis for reaching the center of each person in the Circle.  You can’t build trust in the Circle, if as keeper you are not doing the same.

Inclusion in Circle is an intention for allowing room for all perspectives.  Check your keeping, are you really doing this.  Physically, are you making sure everyone in the room is in the Circle.  Is your Circle as round as possible, so everyone is knee to knee, shoulder to shoulder?  Mentally, are you preparing your questions, have you put thought into your Circle.  Have you considered what everyone else will think about the questions, the topics.  Have you invited as many perspectives as possible to the Circle?  That is a form of inclusion – to have the community voice, the hurt, the harmed and the people impacted.

3 Circle Activities that promote values, equality, inclusion

1) Stand and have people take one step in when they share.  Have them do two snaps when they finish, and the Circle do 2 snaps.  This activity shows the turns, and cues the listeners in, while giving them a role (to snap).  They track the speaker (role modeling, practicing one at a time).  This also engages people to take courage to share, everyone is asked to step in, one at a time (equality).

2) Y Chart.  Draw a Y on a plate, then add a drawing of an eye, an ear and a heart.  Ask people to share what it might look like, sound like and feel like if the values in the Center were in the Circle.  Any round with the talking piece that includes a deeper discussion or reflection on the values is value added.

3)Consensus/Commitment “action”, when having people commit to do their best with the values in the Center, include a verbal cue, but then also an action.  A thumbs up, pass a pinky finger handshake, or putting your foot in the center for two taps.

Join me at the Advanced Keeper Training, encouraging use of Peacemaking Circles in Schools!  October 23 & 24, 2014.

How key elements of a Restorative Justice Peacemaking Circle create more than conversation.

Circles are so simple, yet so complex.  I’ve been told I make it look easy, that ease comes from a deep committment to honor the process and the key elements of Restorative Justice Circles.  Here are a few of the elements and how utilizing them impacts the process, creating a deeper container a richer experience, and has people quickly moving to a place of emotional safety.

The opening/closing.  I have a 3 inch 3 ring binder bursting with poems, readings and even an obituary.  When you introduce this element you are sharing how Circle is different from our every day conversation, that sets a tone.  The reading also provides one voice.  The one reading, is the one speaking, at that time.  People know that when someone is reading to a group, the thing to do is to listen.  The reading creates an opportunity for the group (without knowing it) to do one of the things that makes Circle so successful (speak one at a time).  When you get to a place of “one voice”, it is actually creating a collective energy of ‘one-ness’.  Sound corny, but in that space you are having more than a conversation.  This is a monitoring of the emotional climate (key Keeper skill) and when you have that spot reached, you have a deeper well.

Commitment to the Values.  Crucial.  Absolutely crucial.  This sets the agenda and the tone for how we are going to relate to each other.  Doing the values round as the first round, sets a tone, and the commitment to those values, sets and ground that the Center of the Circle, has a capital C.  It is an easy place to find consensus, to talk about consensus.  The other thing it does is give chance for a one-word or short sentence response.  Quickly moving the Talking Piece around the Circle.  Once every voice is heard, people have a sense of belonging, of value.  They have given a vote on how they are willing to proceed.  If I have a delicate topic or important conversation, I always ask “can I talk to you” or “do you have time right now”.  This is a small but very influential relationship building technique.

Passing the Talking Piece Around the Circle.  I think the Keeper was trying to point out use of the talking piece, when someone was blurting she asked if they needed it, the person said yes.  It started a “popcorn” style, going across the Circle, bouncing around.  Many of us were not in that particular stream of conversation.  From my seat, it felt as if the individuals doing the talking had taken a bit of control of the process.  When the Keeper started to engage the piece going all the way around, it felt more equal.  Equality, sitting equal distance from the Center, equal opportunity with the talking piece.  These physical actions influence our emotions, Spirit and thoughts.

Keeper as model to responses.  I often go first, to show or demonstrate and to set the tone.  Just offering “who wants to start” creates the extroverts going first.  You have lost the chance to influence the emotional content, level or sharing and duration of explanation you are seeking.  Sometimes going last to summarize is important.  By going first you can also restate the question at the end of your sharing.  Helpful for the person to your left or right.  (I go both ways, another blog post).

Relationship Building.  You can’t NOT be in relationship, and relationships are bi-lateral.  Kindness builds a relationship.  I often mention to the person on my left, “you have a big job, you’ll be going first” or I engage in talk that connects.  Asking people safe questions to start and small talk shows you care.  We specifically place volunteers in the Circle as people are starting with the task to do relationship-building.  It means treating people with the utmost non-judgement.  If someone hands you a pen, they are trying to be helpful, take it.  Hand it back later when it is needed.  People can be anxious or nervous, do what you can to be kind, helpful, non-judgemental, supportive.  Be as safe as a Circle, engage values in every way you can. (click to Tweet).

Creating learning “containers” with Restorative Justice Circles, two techniques.

I don’t teach spontaneous Circle Keeping.  I teach getting grounded, connected and comfortable with the core values and principles in Circles.  After working to have these with me, I have developed a few activities that lend to utilizing the container, the center of the Circle, to enhance the process.  These also provide participants a chance to experience what Circle is like.  Here are two techniques I might add to a Circle, an old favorite and new one.

Technique 1:  Passing the talking piece, holding it until you feel your silence is heard.  In your non-directive, supportive Keeper role, ask participants to pass the talking piece, staying silent, and only passing it when they feel their silence has been “heard”.  Sometimes I frame this as a group listening exercise, promoting “collective-ness”.  At other times, I might not offer much except the instructions, it depends on the desired outcome of the activity.  I will use it to calm or slow down the emotional climate.   It can be used to promote an awareness of silence.  It also teaches a pathway to feeling “heard”.  You can reinforce that a bit more, by asking a follow up question: how did you know you were heard, or how did you know you were ready to pass the talking piece?  This technique can be used to teach the power of listening.  The focus is on the person holding the talking piece (as when we speak) however, people are learning to focus/listen non-verbally, and we know non-verbal communication is important.  This is a good one to start, to go first and model actually holding the piece and tune in to the feeling of being heard.  This also builds trust in the group, this round gives the keeper opportunity to reinforce a key aspect of Circle, to listen.  It is a good one to do a reflection on the experience, having people share, many times they relate the uncomfortable feeling of it.  The keeper can then remind people, we don’t usually stretch or grow in our comfort zones, so feeling uncomfortable is ok.  It’s even a time for curiosity.

This has proved itself time and time again, I’d say 99% of the time it goes really well.  The 1%, I had a very challenging student group, they didn’t like it.  So I used my chimes and gave them a moment to make all the noises they wanted.  Then we tried the exercise again.  Silence wasn’t safe for this group, we made a step however.

Silence is a good tool to use when keeping Restorative Justice Circles.  Silence is a good prep tool for a keeper and if you are going to use a tool, it is good to get very comfortable with it.

Technique 2: stand up and mime your favorite outdoor activity.  This was invented with the 1% listed above.  I use 4 stages (link to 74 other posts), and when going a bit deeper (into the building relationship stage) if people disengage, I back up to safer questions.  I could see the group getting restless, someone passed.  I know if the brain and the bottom are connected, when the bottom falls asleep so does the brain.  I needed an ‘energizer’ and I needed to build connection.  A bit of “safe-vulnerability” was needed.  Safe-vulnerability in Circle, means a chance to reveal something about your self, yet it is collectively connected and connecting.  The stand up and mime question, allowed us to show we aren’t professional mimes, we got to laugh a bit at ourselves and each other.  Laughter builds connection.  Laughter is the shortest distance between two people.

The technique worked with the challenging group of students.  No one passed, I felt the energy and saw the student eyes appreciate the aides and teachers doing the activity.  It was a “safe-vulnerability” because staff and students got to know each other without an overly personal disclosure by the adults.  Building connections that are safe is important to strengthen the Circle.  Vulnerability in a Circle, in an organic and natural way also builds meaningful connections.  Sometimes a deep question or storytelling round brings that out.  Sometimes being vulnerable is just a small risk, and ‘outside the box’ way of being.  Vulnerability is best told by Brene Brown, her site, and TED talk, titled the The Power of Vulnerability.

Do you have “go-to” techniques you use?  If you try one of these let me know how it goes!

Fear, nervous energy, anxiety all acceptable before Circle-keeping.

I have a reverance for the Circle process.  Specifically, the Restorative Justice Circle process as I learned it, from Kay Pranis, Linda Wolf, Jamie Williams, Oscar Reed, and many, many, many people who have joined me in Circles over the past 6 years.  By reverance, I mean a deep respect and knowledge that the concept of Circle (intentionally capatilized) is in our DNA.  To provide equal respect, for me, is a way to honor the divine in all of us.  So if you are about to embark on your journey as a Circle-keeper, if you are new to using this technology, then fear, nervous energy and anxiety might all be part of it, and I find that a good thing.

In Kay’s book Peacemaking Circles, she shares the importance of preparing by centering.  I used this guidance,  I was anxious when I started, I would have notes about the questions I prepared, words listed as tips for me to say about opening a Circle.  I feel now, that a focused inhale can prepare me.  Well, I also exhale!  I was talking to someone today, it was an interview that was a good conversation.  I kept wanting to offer, what I wish I might have heard before keeping my first Circle.  I offered support for those feelings of anxiety or fear.  Maybe just nervous energy.  I think these things are good, when we care about doing well we can get nervous not wanting to do harm or to complicate matters.

Circlekeeping shouldn’t feel like the same old, same old kind of faciliatation.  Circlekeeping is keeping the form and funtion of Circle above individual agenda’s – keeper or attendee.  The form and function of Circle is to be grounded in Restorative Justice and specifically the value of respect.  I think it starts with the respect to the process of Circle.

Classroom Circle UWRF

I wish you well as you try this.  I encourage training, training and reading.  Then find a mentor to discuss your plans with.  Engage yourself in learning about, doing and developing your Circlekeeping skills.

I appreciate this model, that takes us from being interested to being.  As it will go with Circle keeping – eventually you will just BE, a keeper!

Agree-ers don’t realize they are judging. Restorative Justice Circles work best when non-judgemental.

I have been in lots and lots of Restorative Justice Circles.  They work best and feel the most natural when all of the concepts are being followed by everyone.

Once in awhile you a person in the Circle, who just does not percieve themselves as not following the concepts.  They are great listeners and excellent “reflectors”.  They can communicate so much, in this “under the radar”, indirect way.  They might simply give a “mMMm” that really means: I so agree with what you are say, oh please say more!

A “HmmMmm” that says: Oh, I hadn’t thought of that before!  Now that you said it, I understand.

I have found the mmHmm’ers are few and far between.  It might be a and quiet, “yep” or a “uh-huh”.  These people are good, they slide these in at the end of a sentance.  They don’t interupt the person, necessarily and it hardly appears they distrupt the process.  For me, it is disruptive.

When you speak (or hum) when you are not holding the talking piece, you are disrespecting the speaker, everyone else in Circle and the process itself.  That may sound harsh, but let me explain.  (I do realize I am judging the person for judging!)

It disrepects the speaker, because it takes from their turn.  Part of the Circle concept that works, is taking turns and honoring the talking piece.  That means all noises.  It means putting “we” ahead of “me”.  When you think of it, isn’t it better to give the entire Circle uninterupted opportunity to listen, that to voice out your agreements? 

When you mMhmm in Circle, you are breaking the concentration of others trying to listen.  What about the one person who got all the uh-huh’s and the person that didn’t?  The process gets disrespected because you have violated the non-judgemental intention of the Circle.

You cannot hear with static in the background.  Judgement has no place in Circle, it is static in the background.  Having a space to speak without judgement is the greatest gift we can give someone.  I believe non-judgemental listening says to the other:  I see you, I trust you enough to listen to you, JUST as a witness to you.  Non-judgmental listening encourages the other person to be their best selves.  Student don’t have to show off or one up each other in a Circle because each is being taken in and accepted for who they are.

When we judge people for the worse, we know we are judging.  When you judge the person in a manner of support, agreement, validation you are judging them for the better and we don’t always think of that as being judgemental.

What if someone speaking was full of it!  What if they talked long enough they would recognize they were full of it?  All that mmHmm, and uh-huh wouldn’t give the person space to figure it out!  They’s never explore another option!

We are taught to care.  Circles are about compassion.  We want to affirm, assure and support people.  We need to remember that our silence is a good tool for that as well.

I’ve learned to address alot of unCircle-like behavior without calling out one person, or shaming in anyway.  I find it is best to focus on what you want from people rather than what you don’t want.  I’ll be playing a humming game or something next time I have one of my known “affirmers” in the Circle!  I believe the best path to change is when a person makes a choice for themselves, I just need to show where choices are.  If you give people the choice of a productive Circle and being part of a greater good, they usually make that choice.   Can I get a strong UH-HUH here please?

Coaching and conducting Circles outside of my schools and community.

The SCVRJP logo has 3 swirls.  The swirls represent the triad’s of restorative justice.  Most important is to remember that Victim, Offender and Community – are 3 entities that compose restorative justice process.

It is so easy to only serve one group.

On a coaching and demonstrating visit to a school, I recommended they get community members in Circles.  By taking the “at-risk” kids and making a Circle for them, (very well intended).  They are creating more “us” & “them” than intended.  By they way, these kids were beyond “at-risk” they were some tough young people.   They needed peer role models in the Circle, they needed an increased sense of community rather than to be isolated with other “trouble-makers”.

When it came down to leading, demonstrating the Circles I got the job done.  I got the group to do pretty well with Circle (for me first engagement with them).  I had students with me, so that helped.  I had to use all I could to get them to even be silent one at a time.  It was a challenge and opportunity for my skills, and what I teach teachers to do in Circle.

We used silence activities.  For example, passing the talking piece until you feel your silence is heard.  Most the young people couldn’t be quiet up until that time, for fear of not getting noticed.  I used lots and lots of non-judgemental language and guidelines for making the Circle work. 

When the talking piece was not in play, I saw some signs (hand gestures) going back and forth.  I dove in with a piece!  “Tell us what you think listening looks like!” and encouragement  “Let’s all look at the person talking so we are sure to understand each and every person.”  I had to role model listening and so did the staff. 

At the end of that Circle, I asked for something they did well in the Circle.  Not only did they offer that they listened, they offered that they appreciated being heard.  Well in terms relevant for the group.  Self-disclosure about not being heard in my family, and  “it was good to be heard in the Circle, even if it was only my silence” left me knowing I introduced the process.

If we want to shift cultures in our schools, we HAVE GOT to use community members.  We have to use Circles for the entire community, those at risk situations and those situations in which harm has occured.  Using the model in one classroom will not change the school.  Implementing a change in climate means getting as many people involved in the process as possible.

I was hired to train at a school and the staff had evaluated restorative justice at another district.  A story shared during training made me 1.)glad everyone heard this and 2) validated the use of Circle as a training technique.  The story, and I don’t ever forget this one . . . visiting staff, asked students how they deal with teasing and bullying, the answer was: “that doesn’t happen at our school”.

If you hire me to come train your school, build in the days for me to come and visit, to coach and help implement.  It will help.

Guiding Circles to provide a place of “freedom of healing”.

I stick to the 4 phases of Circles.  Our Circlespace Room at the Restorative Justice Center even has them on the wall.  I got to chat a bit with someone else who keeps Circle and we found a few places to keep to these phases.

Circlespace at Restorative Justice Center

A few tips to dig deeper into the Circle process.  Try not to do the same types of questions for every phase.  You can even get creative in modifying what you might say to into the Circle, by the participants level of engagement.

 
For example, you can tell people they can pass.  That is a tool of the talking piece.  But following it up with a little perspective about Circles being by invitation, you are invited to share.  Or that we set it up to be non-judgemental so we can all share openly.  I often cover that this is a confidential, safer than usual space.
 
My daughter also recently advised me, I should say “speak from the heart” instead of “use your wisest words”.  The wise words one is a way to ask others to speak without insult or offending someone else.  She thought is sounded preachy.  The tips

In a Circle meeting multiple times, we used our values plates from the last Circle.  I instructed people to either the one that appeared on the top or to reach in the stack and late fate decide.  They could also just look and pick one.   We were going to share how that value (the one on the plate) has been experienced in our life.

We set the tone for building relationships by speaking how we were impacted by the last Circle we had, what did we carry with over the week.  This built our relationships by sharing that we are making a difference to each other.  This gave our Circle the opportunity to value each and every person.

I used a question from one of our written surveys, “how would you describe this experience to a friend”.  This built up our understanding of each others perspectives of the process.  It again let us know how much we were doing for each other.  One simple response was “freedom and healing”.

We had our storytelling time, which is the addressing issues stage.  Following stories we always do a reflection on the story.  You have to role model this one, remind people with your direct and indirect words, to share from their own perspectives.  I might mention that using “I” and “me” are more reflective.  People often have the first response to thank the person who shared and then want to offer their own advice, feedback and those things get closer to judgement that a Circle is designed to be.  If you are saying “you” in Circle you might need to shift a little.

I directed people to another Circle on the way, the one that listed our intended outcomes:  Restore Connections – Improve Self-worth – Promote Empathy.  I asked people to share how they have been impacted relative to those 3 or any others.  This was really interesting to hear how many people felt an increase of self-worth.  I was glad to see such expressed shifts as a result of being in Circle.

Our closing to dig a bit deeper was to identify the person 3 people to your left.  The round was going to be saying the person’s name, and then “my wish for you is ____”.  The blank could only be 1 word.  I got to hear “Kris, my wish for you is Love.”  We went around the Circle, and the wishes went around, and people got a moment to soak in the wish they recieved before sharing a wish (with the 2 people in between).  It was wonderful that we wanted peace, confidence, optimism, gratitude and things that really allowed the person sharing and listening to interpret for themselves.

Great Circles inspire me.  People leading and learning and sharing in this process really makes you feel connected to humanity.  If you haven’t had a chance, give it a try.

 

Restorative Justice Circles provide a feeling of importance.

Do you like to feel like you are important?  Gosh I do and I like to provide that to other people as well.  Not the important as in arrogance, but feeling important like you matter and make a difference.

A recent Circle “newbie” described that the Circle made her feel important.  It was a Circle of many new people to the process, an adult or two and a mixture of high school and middle school students.

One of the teachings I highlight in Circle training is “unexpected enlightenment” meaning being open to others stories, thoughts and experiences as a way to our own personal growing and learning as people.  I am always trying to be open.  If you catch a lesson in your net you can pass it along to others.

I am passing along how valuable Circles are in making people feel important.  Circles give everyone equal value and equal opportunity to share.  Circles give equal contribution options, equal distance from the Center and from each other.  The stage is set for everything the Circle does to be important, as it engages all of us.

Victims and bystanders feel important because they are given a space and platform to speak.  Restorative Justice focuses on the impact.  You are important because how you were impacted is relevant.  Speaking about how you are impacted gives the opportunity to put the experience outside of you and inside a Circle of people listening and witnessing.

Contribution feels important.  If I am not asked for my voice, I don’t even think of it as being important.  Everyone gets asked in Circle.  I also align and inform people at the beginning, speak to the Center, use your wise words (not to insult or put down others) and speak from the heart.  So many times repeating what we think others want to hear or saying the answer that will not cause problems comes to mind.  Just recently I was thinking of what to say, and was going to ask if people wanted the honest response or the one that would keep the meeting going smoothly.

Back to my Circle “newbie” and Circles with middle school students.  Gosh do they ever need to feel important.  Like is in such transition.  I must admit, as it got closer and closer to the presentation of 80 middle school students, I began to worry.  I was shocked at how well-behaved they were in general.  Additionally, I was equally impressed and happy to experience the adultness of their Circle behavior.  They really took to it and respected the values, respected each other and opened up when given the opportunity.

It was one of my spontaneous moves, to be asked for a Circle demonstration and say “YES!”.  We got plates from the kitchen for the values, my coworker and I both got talking pieces from our purses.  One student leader had her Circle training manual from our session 10 months ago, used an opening reading from that!  We did a fish bowl, and 70 students stood around the dozen of us in Circle.  It was a career snapshot moment! 

A simple reflection at the end of Circle from a student involved . . . “the Circle made me feel important”.  Wa-la and that is the power of Circle!

Circles promote alliance. Alliance is crucial to change, healing, recovery and restoration.

My background is in counseling.  The therapeutic alliance was important, often highlighted at the most important component for change.  Positive relationships between therapist and client brought about the most positive and long-lasting changes.

As social workers, teachers, probation officers the professional alliance is the relationship from professional to client.  Restorative Justice professionals/providers/specialists/facilitators also need to be aware of the role alliance can play in helping people address issues of crime and conflict.

The unique role a restorative justice professional plays it to be aligned with restorative justice philosophy and not to a person on a particular side of an issue (victim or offender).  Circle process allows for us to be equally and uniquely aligned with people.

Teachers can sit with students, facilitate a Circle and focus on the learning community or each students relationships to the subject matter or classroom environment.  No other form gives you the sense of “we are all in this together” like forming a Circle and facing each other.

Circles help create alliance, because they bring out a place inside of us that is common to everyone else.  The equality sets up a safety, the values give us guidelines.  The best, most productive inner dialogue you might have gets to be spoken out loud.

I was doing a presentation on social justice to a group of students.  In that group, a few students that had some Circle experience.  I spontaneously asked if those students that had participated would be willing to all stand up and offer the rest of the group some feedback.  I had not prepared the students, or even warned them about this.  That is the confidence I have in Circle process, to allow students to share their experiences with others.

A few students in the audience stood up.  I had them share one by one, going from the left of the room to the right.  As the last student started to sit down, another young man stood up.  It struck me that he waited until the last moment to identify himself.  It occurred to me I asked a great deal from these students, to stand up identified, to take turns explaining something without preparation.  I learned a great deal from what this young man offered.

He said that when you speak in Circle, you are so comfortable, the way it is set up is so cool, you can start to talk to people.  He shared that in Circle he said things about himself that he didn’t even know.

That seems odd, that you would say something about yourself that you didn’t even know.  Yet, I completely identified with his experience, I have experienced that and seen it happen other times (in Circle).  I think it is exploring your inner landscape in the presence and safety of others.  These times when people share deeply about an experience or reflect on someone elses story is a place where you see the change happening.  I believe it is alliance between us as human beings that allows this simultaneous exploration and discovery.  Without it, how could we ever become better people.

I encourage you to sit in Circle – in professional relationships.   Align with those you work with around relationship values.