Council circle

(see also círculo de la palabra)

Brief Description

This is an old practice inherited from many traditions. Sitting around the fire, community members share their experiences, points of view, feelings, emotions, dreams listening to each other witout engaing in long discussions. The keywords are talking and listening. The circle is a shape in which all participants are equal, there are no hierarchies. The circle itself plays a very important role as a space holder in which a safe environment is created. This means that participants can talk freely and that whatever they share will be treated with respect and kept within the circle with no judgements.

History (if applicable)

In many cultures around the world learning takes place through conversations. Some times they involve the whole community while in others they are meant only for men, or for women, or elders, etc. They fire keeps a focus and is considered a source of inspiration and a mean to cleanse the space.
When someone is talking all the participants listen and wait, there is no rush to react, to answer, to disagree. In those cultures, time has a different meaning and it is possible to simply patiently wait until the speaker ends the intervention.

When to use

Among many other applications, this method could be useful to enhance community relations, to promote learning through sharing, to explore solutions or alternatives to a particular problem or event or to heal relationships within a group. Even tough a time framework could be set it would be better to have a flwxible schedule.

How to use

  1. Invite the participants and explain them what to expect and the rules
  2. Prepare the space: a warm and causy one, light some candles or create a mandala or a nice art spot in the centre of the circle. Participants might sit on chairs or on the floor, choose the best option according to the local culture, the age of participants, health considerations, etc.
  3. Choose a talking stick. This might be a special one, created for this purpose or any object that all participants will acknoledge as talking stick.
  4. When all participants are sitted around the circle, take the talking stick, explain the purpose of the councli circle and the rules to apply.
  5. If appropriate, use a check-in question to create a sense of connection among participants.
  6. Whoever wants to talk requests the talking stick and does it. It finnishes when he/she decides to.
  7. When it is over: it is over. Follow your intuition and your perception.

It is important to remind participants to:
  • Listen
  • Be patient
  • Respect the space and treat confidentially whatever it is shared
  • Do not judge

Tips and Lessons Learnt

If not used to it, participants should develop a listening culture. Nowadays, with so many gadgets and busy agendas, people tend to be (or pretend to be) in many places at the same time without a deep and honest listening. Invite them to switch off mobiles, to unplug from their agendas and to tune with the circle and the talks that would take place.
It might happen that someone starts talking and keeps doing it for a very long time. If you keep practicing the council circle within a community or a stable group of people, gradually the group itself will develop some rules to control long speeches.

Examples & Stories

(add your story)

Who can tell me more?

  • Camilo Villa: k[at]

Related Methods / Tools / Practices

Anecdote circles:

Resources (add your resources)

Wikipedia council circle:
Center for Restorative Justice and Peacemaking:
Mini book, the Talking Stick:

Keywords, Tags

Native traditions, listening, women circles, men circles, healing circles
Círculo de la palabra, escucha, círculo de mujeres, círculo de hombres, círculos de sanación

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