Talking Circles

Talking Circles are a way of bringing people together as equals to have an honest exchange about a situation that has relevance for everyone. Circles value respect and equality and the spiritual and emotional aspects of each person are welcomed. Participants express themselves through stories and everyone has the opportunity to talk without interruption. Circles were common in many indigenous communities, and happily they have been revived in cultures around the world as a creative way to address twenty-first century issues.

The purpose of Talking Circles is to build community and deepen relationships. While some circles are specifically designed to reactively address conflict in a community, Talking Circles are designed to proactively strengthen and build community. All circles offer an alternative to using argument and debate as a way to discuss and solve problems and make decisions. In contrast circles value the skills and techniques that bring about collaboration and consensus. Each circle takes approximately two hours, and most people enjoy some additional time to have a snack and conversation afterwards.

As part of the Season for Nonviolence in 2013 in Rochester NY, along with a number of volunteers, I offered “Traveling Peace Circles” as a way to introduce communities, such as schools and not-for-profit organizations, to circles. Travelling Peace Circles were shared at Hillside Children’s Center, (Rochester NY), and Rochester Monroe Recover Network, (also, Rochester NY) I also facilitated and supported a number of local circles addressing the issue of race.

Please contact me if you would like to introduce Talking Circles to your community or group, or if you would like to organize a workshop on the subject.

We cannot change the world by a new plan, project, or idea. We cannot even change other people by our convictions, stories, advice and proposals, but we can offer a space where people are encouraged to disarm themselves, lay aside their occupations and preoccupations and listen with attention and care to the voices speaking in their own center.Henri Nouwen