Intro to Talking Circles


A refreshing way of communicating and coming to a peaceful understanding of each other’s point of view and, if desired, a consensus. An old/new way that allows quiet people to be heard and gives talkative people a break.

Types of Circles

  • Talking Circles:
  • Share stories
  • Hear everyone’s perspectives to increase understanding, which may improve relationships
  • Not intended to achieve a consensus or do deep relational work
  • Checking in and/or reflecting with members of a project
  • Receiving and giving feedback
  • Dialogue about community concerns such as public policy or racism
  • Share intergenerational or interfaith perspectives
  • Exchange divergent points of view on emotional topics such as gay marriage, abortion, crime
  • Advanced:
  • Takes deeper Guardian training and preparation of the participants before the circle meets.
  • Arrive at a restorative/transformative justice consensus on how to meet everyone’s needs after harm has occurred
  • Deep relationship work. Heal broken relationships

When Not to Use a Circle

  • Unwilling participants
  • The organizer is tied to a particular point of view
  • Not open to hearing and respecting other people and their points of view

Conversation vs Circle

  • Socializing
  • Opinions/Opinionated
  • Unstructured
  • Deep listening
  • Thoughtful Speaking
  • Structured

Circle Agreements for a Safe, Brave Space


  • Listen with attention
  • Respect learning process
  • Speak with intention
  • Relevance of information
  • Respectful of other’s contributions
  • A person may pass sometimes but contribution is essential to the process

Group Guidelines:

  • Silence your cell phone
  • Treat each other with respect for their person and for their thoughts/statements
  • One person speaking at a time – use “talking’ piece
  • What is said in the Circle stays in the Circle
  • No side conversations

Individual Guidelines

  • Listen from your heart. Quiet your thoughts and your body; Listen without interruption; Listen to others as you would like to be listened to
  • Speak from your heart. Speak as honestly as your feelings of safety in the circle allows. When speaking of your experience use “I” instead of “you”
  • Be Lean of Speech. Say what you need to say in as direct of a way as possible. Tell what is MOST important to be heard. Honor time so that everyone is heard
  • Be Spontaneous; Try not to practice or rehearse what you will say nor evaluate what you have said

Role of Guardian/Host

  • Neutral to the point of view of others, but may participate by offering thoughts, ideas, and stories
  • Care for everyone in the circle
  • Observes process
  • Watch the “energy” of group
  • Can call a “pause” if calming is needed
  • Uses chime/bell/or uses open hands for a pause
  • Summarize discussion and ask prompt questions
  • Closes the circle with a summary, inspirational words, or asks for a round where everyone gives one word about their experience

Circle Process

  • Opening ceremony
  • Introduce Talking “Stick”
  • Assures of no interruptions
  • Slows pace; encourages thoughtful & reflective interaction
  • Powerful equalizer
  • Brings in quiet people
  • Closing the Circle
  • Closing the Circle – provides a formal end
  • A chance to reflect on what took place
  • Example closings:
  • Each person comments on what they learned or what is in their heart or mind
  • A moment of silence
  • Guardian offers a few inspirational words
  • The Circle is released

Table Circles

(Now the participants can practice a circle with a provided topic)

  • Table Circle Discussions (30 – 40min)
  • First round, introduce yourself: 1. name, 2. where from, 3. have you ever been in a Circle before?
  • Second and subsequent rounds, share your thoughts about the topic

May 9, 2024 Event

  • The Topic: Share your perspective on the difference between Tolerance, Respect, and Acceptance.

Prompt questions:

  • How might these attitudes and actions apply to self, family, work, and community dynamics?
  • What is the intersection with the Golden Rule?
  • Can you separate the person from their actions?

Sharing with the Large Group

Back to large group to share experience, and insights into how this process can be used in other

Respectfully submitted by Mark A. Klym, Phoenix Peace Builders,