A talking circle is a method used by a group to discuss a topic in an egalitarian and non-confrontational manner.
The group members sit in a circle and comment on the topic of discussion following a small number of rules:
1. Only the person holding a specific object — such as a talking stick — may speak.
2. An effort is made to listen as you would want to be listened to when you are speaking.
3. The talking stick passes around the circle.
Ideally everybody forms a seated circle shoulder-to-shoulder, so that they can see each other’s faces, including those on either side of them. This becomes impractical for large circles and folks may be nested 3 or more deep so that everyone is close enough to hear.
Each person is given the opportunity to speak in turn, by passing an object around the circle. The person holding the object speaks. As the speaker completes their turn, they pass the object to their neighbor, who may speak or may, in silence, pass the object on.
A ceremonial opening (and closing) is used in some circles.
Generally speakers are not interrupted by other participants, though one term for breaking this is to request to “address the stick”. In some circles, it is then the current speakers discretion to allow the interruption.
In some circles it is ok to take notes to then address particular points that have been raised by others.
In international circles a translator may also be involved in the process.
A large circle may continue over successive days.
If the purpose is to develop a consensus agreement in the group, a discussion may continue until consensus is reached. One approach is to continue passing the talking object until it circles once in silence as a way to affirm consensus has been reached.
While highly decorated ceremonial talking sticks are often used, in some circles it is the practice to use a stick found on the ground and to burn it at the end of the circle. Or any object may be used to denote the current speaker in the circle.
Confidentiality of what was said may be an aspect or agreement of a particular talking circle.
Circle Way org Homepage of Manitonquat and the Mettanokit Foundation.
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