Cross contamination happens in Circle. As someone talks about their experience, it resonates with someone else.
I’ve been thinking about how to explain this magical awareness that happens. I’ts part of why I think Circles are so effective. I want to promote a mentoring program that involved Circle as a mentor/mentee activity. Its the cross contamination of our understanding of values.
I just had a realization of my own, that can demonstrate what I mean.
One of the first things in Circle, is to hand out paper plates, and ask participants to think of someone special. Then to write on the plate the one quality or characteristic most important to that relationships. I do this backdoor approach to the value, because if you flat out asked someone to write down a relationship value, you would probably get what they think they should write. I also do the back door, because if we think of our ‘special’ person, our brains get flooded with that positivity of thinking of our loved one. It puts relationship on the mind. Restorative Justice is about relationships.
One participant picked the word ‘communication’ and spoke of his Mother being the hub for what is going on in the family. Talk to Mom and you know what is going on with everyone else. I immediately thought of my Dad. He is our families ‘hub’. I realized my Dad is doing a good job of being my Mom. The Circle went on.
Later while watching TV, the thought of my Dad being a good Mom came up. I wondered if had my Mom, not died 22 years ago if my Dad would be in that role. He calls my brother, my sister and me, he goes down the line. We’ve laughed as talking with my Dad, prompted me to call my sister. Typically our conversations include my Dad’s updates about talking with my sibilings.
I explained to my daughter how my Dad was being a good Mom. Someone elses awareness of a relationship value had a ripple effect. It created awareness about my own relationships. That’s what happens in Circle and that’s why it helps.
A few years ago I did an interview with a domestic violence advocate and a member of support group. After being trained in Circle the advocate introduced the process to the DV support group. The women wanted to have group in that format, again. So the advocate agreed to once a month. After the second Circle the women in the group said, we want Circle all the time. The interview was conducted, I was going to write up an article about it. So I have permission to share their reflections.
The support group participant preferred Circle over group for several reasons. She appreciated the equality of the circle, instead of the tables and square format. She appreciated hearing from each person in the Circle, support groups could get dominated by one individuals ‘solutions’ for everyone else or one persons crisis. She also liked that instead of focusing on ‘what he did’ they talked about relationship values. She also shared that everyone has values inside, Circle helps you make those values stronger. She thought that was much more helpful than a support group on budgeting or childcare, when those issues don’t relate to everyone. In Circle, each person relates the topic to themselves and that helps. She also felt empowered in being part of the Circle, rather than just a recipient of the service.
The advocate, she felt the Circle, helped people be safe in a way that they actually explored being different. She shared an ‘aha’ one of the woment had about why she was battling with her x over child support. The focus on relationship values, really helps people get along well, with others.