In Circles, participants speak from their own experiences. They tell their stories. This simple rule of practice has many benefits.
- It protects Circle dialogue from lectures and trying to tell others—or being told—what to do.
- It curbs the urge to judge or advise others from our own experiences and instead invites participants to suspend judgments and advice, while we listen to the experiences that shaped other’s actions.
- It shifts the focus from “You should …” to “I remember when I …”
- It encourages an atmosphere of humility and compassion, as participants recall similar struggles or times when they felt similar ways.
- It builds mutual understanding, as we learn the personal journeys that have brought us to where we are.
- It creates opportunities for participants to learn from each other’s experiences.
- It gives voice to experiences that social filters routinely screen out.
- It builds bridges across social, economic, political, ethnic, racial, and gender divides.
- It brings us back to our humanity. Sharing stories humanizes us for each other.
Hearing each other’s stories is an essential element of the restorative justice process. It creates spaces for healing on both sides of harms.
Beyond healing harms and transforming conflicts, though, sharing stories builds bonds of understanding and love in many areas of life. David Isay, for example, founded StoryCorps in 2003 to record the stories of everyday people across the United States. StoryCorps invites people into StoryBooths to record their stories.
Circles provide a space where we can share our stories and listen with our hearts any time and virtually anywhere. Circles offer a way for us to come together in a good way to talk about what matters to us and to know that we will both listen and be heard.
Through Circles, we engage the power of our stories.
Don't ask, "What's the problem?" Ask, "what's the story?" That way, you'll find out what the problem really is.
—Richard Neustadt & Ernest May, Thinking in Time: The Uses of History for Decision-Makers