By now I knew: A circle is not just a meeting with the chairs rearranged. A circle is a way of doing things differently than we have become accustomed to. The circle is a return to our original form of community as well as a leap forward to create a new form of community.

- From the book, Calling the Circle, The First and Future Culture

If you have questions about calling a circle, read on for answers to frequently asked questions.

If you have questions about this connected global circle of colleagues who practice, consult, and teach The Circle Way, or perhaps questions about upcoming Circle Way trainings, or questions about Circle Way resources, we invite you to contact us.

How do I start?

The starting point of any circle is a desire to have a gathering where all voices can be heard. Place the chairs in a circle and something symbolic of the gathering in the middle—a vase of flowers, pictures of children, tea service, etc.. Explain the talking piece and brief agreements for listening and speaking and send the talking piece around the rim of the circle with a simple question like, “What piece of news is important and relevant to you today?”

Do I have to use all of the components of The Circle Way in order for it to work?

No. The larger the number of participants and/or the more complex its purpose, the more structure is needed. For example, a gathering of five new neighbors for the purpose of meeting one another needs just 4 components: center, rim, talking piece, and agreements. A nursing unit with 27 night and day shift workers that has been charged to improve communication by their nursing director would probably be wise to use all elements of the Components of Circle wheel.

There are other people using circle who don’t refer to it as The Circle Way. Is there a difference between this and other circle practices?

There are several movements around the world that are bringing circle back into our consciousness. People like Joan Halifax, Jack Zimmerman, Gigi Coyle, Sedonia Cahill, Charles Garfield, Cindy Spring, WindEagle, RainbowHawk, Angeles Arrien, Kay Pranis, and Jean Shinoda Bolen have been teaching and writing about circle in the same span of time that Ann and Christina were developing their practice.

The practices that we are aware of have similar roots in ancient culture and there are many overlapping components. In their PeerSpirit work, Ann and Christina made an effort to bring the circle into the organizational heart of Middle America because they believe that’s where it is most needed and where social change will arise. This has helped inform how their teachings emerged.

The different contexts where circle practices have grown has lead to some variations that are evident when you get to know each practice. One is not superior to another - each circle practitioner must find what works best for their context.

How do I find other people already gathering in circle?

Go to the People page on this website and connect with someone. Don’t be afraid to call your own circle—see question #1.

Do I have to go for training before I can try this?

No, you can simply begin with a few willing people and some of the instruction on this website. It will help to use the Basic Circle guidelines as a reference point. And when you feel the need for it, training is a great way to hone your skills as you get into the to help you with the complexity of larger and more contentious circles.

How do I explain it to the people I’m inviting into the circle?

This is a common question because how circle is explained to a group in the first ten minutes can greatly determine its success. The most important thing is that the caller be relaxed, clear, and inviting. For example, in a small group of friends, the introduction might be, “I’d like us to try a format tonight that gives each of us a chance to be heard without interruption. You can see that we are sitting in a circular shape with an aesthetic attractive center. We have all read the same book for this evening.  When the talking piece comes to you, share your impressions of the book. We will listen unless we have the talking piece.”

What should I do if some people in the group resist meeting in circle?

A circle cannot function unless all members agree to participate. In a work situation, members sometimes must participate as a condition of their job. However, in a private or community setting, people have choices. Reluctant or fearful members need time to ask questions or voice concerns. If there is still resistance, ask if people would be willing to try meeting in a circle for one time and then evaluate whether or not to continue.

What is a check-in?

At the beginning of a circle gathering, each participant is invited to share a short relevant story or statement that relates to the group’s purpose - essentially to let the group members know how they appear to each other. This simple routine gathers people’s attention and focuses everyone on the purpose of the meeting.  Learn more about the check-in in The Circle Way: A leader in every chair.

Is this cultural appropriation of an Indigenous practice?

Circle is yet another piece of ancient wisdom that current Indigenous people have not forgotten. Indeed, they have held onto it until the rest of us were wise enough to re-discover it. A bow of gratitude to them.

If we trace modern day people back far enough into their individual lineages, all of us come from earth-based, tribal people that gathered around the campfire. The circle is deep in all of our bones.

Is The Circle Way a spiritual practice? If so, can I bring it into my workplace?

The Circle Way is one way people can meet together. It is not a spiritual practice. It is a practice of meeting together.

A circle can feel “spiritual” because there is careful listening and speaking that is often reserved for intimate or spiritual settings. However, people of all denominations and beliefs are welcome in a circle. And circles have been used in secular settings ranging from academic staffs classrooms to the European Union.

If you have other questions that weren’t answered here, consider purchasing The Circle Way: A leader in every chair. You are also welcome to contact us and someone will get back to you within a week.