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IntroductionHow Do I Use It?Talking Circle

Talking Circle

What Is a Talking Circle?

In many cultures, a Talking Circle is formed when a community wants to discuss an issue, or a number of issues, at a public gathering. The participants form a circle, usually in the centre of a room, or around a fire. Each person in the Talking Circle shares their perspective on an issue, while the others listen respectfully.

At the beginning of each Circle, everyone stands in a circle around the Talking Stick. One person takes the Talking Stick and begins with a ritual opening phrase.

The Talking Stick is passed to the next person. Each member of the Circle repeats the words of the opening phrase until the Stick has made it around the Circle. There are times when the talking stick doesn't go in round, but to the center, when somebody has spoken. Whenever another member of the circle feels moved to speak, he/she picks up the stick again.

Individuals are then invited to make comments to the group. As each one speaks, he/she holds the Talking Stick and each person in turn speaks his or her truth.

When the comments are over, the group sits down, and the Talking Stick is placed on its table in the center of the Circle.

At the end of each Circle, all members of the Circle stand in a circle, and all are invited to make comments to the group. As each one speaks, he/she should take the Talking Stick. When the comments are over, the Talking Stick is placed back on its table. Everyone gathers around the Talking Stick and reaches in to touch it. Then the eveerryone says a ritual closing phrase.

Talking Circle Rules

Three general rules
  • Speak honestly and truthfully from the heart
  • Be brief
  • Listen attentively
Each Circle develops its own rules during the first meeting, and everyone in the group agrees to abide by them. Here are some typical rules Circles have made up:
  • One person talks at a time
  • Everyone listens to the person talking, without interrupting.
  • Be supportive of each other and encourage each other
  • If you say you will do something, do it
  • Be willing to try things you have never tried before

Talking Circle Guidelines

Here are some general guidelines for conducting a Talking Circle.

In the simplest form of a Talking Circle
  • It's done in a complete circle
  • Only the person holding the stick talks, all the rest listen
  • The stick is passed around in a clockwise direction
  • A person talks until they are finished, being respectful of time
  • The Talking Circle is complete when everyone has had the opportunity to speak
  • A person may pass the stick without speaking, if they so wish
  • If desired, the stick may be passed around again
  • What is said in the Circle stays in the Circle
  • A Circle is used to discuss issues of importance
  • Is extremely respectful of everyone as individuals and what they have to say
Some additional issues
  • Before Talking Circle is conducted, review protocol for Circle.
  • Arrange to be trained by someone who is comfortable doing Talking Circles.
  • The circle must be complete. People should not be left out.
  • An object is passed around that has some significance.
  • Only person holding the object is allowed to talk.
  • Some Circles have a person who is "responsible for conducting the Circle", others don't.
  • To "get out of the Talking Circle" to ask a question, some people put the stick down, which allows anyone to answer.
  • Talking Circles can focus on emotional issues and so go directly to the heart.
  • The underlying concept is to be respectful.
  • Talking Circles are conducted in different ways. The "simplest form of a Talking Circle" is a good starting point.
  • Remember, it's a good idea to learn how to do Talking Circles from someone who is experienced.
For more information:
First Nations—Circle Talks
Wisdom Circles

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