When people gather in circle and adopt the agreements and practices of The Circle Way, the conversation changes. 

Conversation is influenced by the shape of the space where people are gathered. Rows and a lectern is a shape for delivering a message; circle is a shape for putting purpose in the middle and listening to every participant’s contribution to the whole. While simply moving the chairs into a circle begins to change how people communicate, The Circle Way offers social structure that often helps conversation arrive at a deeper, more intentional place. These components of structure help ensure that each person is heard and that meaning and wisdom emerge.

Some people refer to The Circle Way as “the container” for conversations. 

Imagine making soup for friends. You would not simply throw food onto the stove-top and hope that something tasty would emerge. Instead, a careful host chooses the right container to hold all of the ingredients and creates the meal by adding ingredients in the right order, layering the flavors over each other until they blended into a delicious meal. This intentional and thoughtful preparation  is influenced by the anticipation of who is coming to eat, and how to set the space so people are comfortable together. The food and the social ambience create an environment for an experience to remember. Synergy occurs.  

To gather people to talk about something important, you don’t simply throw them together and hope that some kind of meaningful outcome occurs. Instead, the careful host selects the container that suits the conversation. The Circle Way is such a container. When you use the components of The Circle Way, the circle can help people hold complexity, work through conflict, discover new possibilities for collaboration, and honour diversity — and still have room for dessert and coffee.

“Several actions set the circle process in motion. The group gathers with a welcome, followed by a round of checking-in so that every voice can be heard. People articulate and respect agreements that define the role of individuals and how they will treat each other. Topic and intention guide the conversation. To elicit story and wisdom, practices of listening and speaking are observed. There is a way to pause the action and call for reflection. Decisions made, whether by consensus or hierarchical design are enhanced by hearing all points of view beforehand, and cooperation is facilitated by participation. Before people leave, there is a round of checking-out and a brief farewell.” – The Circle Way

The Components of The Circle Way: 

  • Intention
  • Welcome Start-point
  • Centre and Check-in/Greeting
  • Agreements
  • Three Principles and Three Practices
  • Guardian of process
  • Check-out and Farewell

The Circle Way process can be applied with subtlety and gentle structure in moments of ease, appreciation, and celebration. AND it is strong enough to hold people through difficult times and conversations. 

Want to understand this in more detail? Please visit the Resources for free downloadable The Circle Way guidelines, available in many languages, as well as videos that describe the components of The Circle Way.