Bishop John Shelby Spong ~ June 16, 1931 – September 12, 2021
Bishop Spong provided a much needed place for those of us who did not connect with traditional theology. We love you Bishop Spong. You will be missed! Funeral services will be held at St. Peter’s, Morristown, NJ and at St. Paul’s, Richmond, VA. Dates and times will be announced as soon as they are available

Talking Circles

Can you imagine if more organizations, communities, and businesses (perhaps even governments?) utilized the ancient indigenous method of the Talking Circle to solve really tough problems or simply air differences within a group?

While it might seem to take a bit longer in the beginning, the truth is that by giving everyone an experience of feeling fully heard, and time for all the collective wisdom to surface, we’d actually reach far better results more quickly than our usual strategy of simply insisting on our idea or solution.

That’s why I believe that Talking Circles are a key tool for us to learn if we want to create more peace and compassion in the world, not to mention make oneness into a lived reality.

Talking Circles can be extremely healing as they invite us to slow down, speak our deepest truth, and really listen to each other. The creation of a sacred container in which all voices are honored lets participants feel safe to express their truths freely.

Talking Circles are especially powerful for resolving or addressing complex ethical or moral issues. Barriers tend to come down and conflict gives way to more harmonious solutions, without the power struggles or domination so common in our world.

During a Talking Circle, people are free to respond however they want as long as they follow these guidelines:

All comments should be addressed directly to the question or issue, not to comments that another participant has made. Both negative and positive comments about what anyone else in the circle says should be avoided. Just say what you want to say in a positive manner. Speak from the heart.

Only one person speaks at a time. Everyone else should be listening in a non-judgmental way to what the speaker is saying. Some groups find it useful to signify in some way who has the floor. Going around the circle systematically is one way to achieve this. Another is to use some object (such as a stone or stick) which the person who is speaking holds and then passes to the next person who has indicated a desire to speak.

Silence is an acceptable response. No one should be pressured at any time to contribute if they feel reticent to do so. There must be no negative consequences, however subtle, for saying “I pass.”

Everyone must feel invited to participate. Some mechanism for ensuring that a few vocal people don’t dominate the discussion should be built in. For instance, no one speaks twice until everyone in the circle has been given the opportunity to speak once. An atmosphere of patient and non-judgmental listening usually helps the shy people to speak out and the louder ones to moderate their participation. Going around the circle in a systematic way, inviting each person to participate simply by mentioning each name in turn can be an effective way to even out participation.

The group leader facilitates the discussion by acknowledging contributions in a non-judgmental way (that is, by avoiding comments such as “good comment” or “great” which can be seen as making comparisons between different contributions), and by clarifying comments when necessary, (e.g. “If I understand what you’re saying, you’re…”).

Speakers should feel free to express themselves in any way that is comfortable: by sharing a personal story, by using examples or metaphors, by making analytical statements, etc.

Review & Commentary