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Conversation Circles

Circles are a tool that facilitates talking, listening, and supporting the equity of voices so that all voices can be heard, valued, and respected.

Conversation circles was developed by the SHARE: Education team, in collaboration with the Native American Cultural Center (nacc.stanford.edu), as a community-building tool. It is rooted in indigenous practices of conflict resolution, understanding, and healing -- sometimes called “peacemaking circles.” We’re not aiming to “perform” this indigenous practice; we are instead aiming to learn from this practice and the values it is rooted in: truly listening to one another as human beings, in all our differences and sameness. In doing so, we can facilitate conversation, co-learning, and stronger relationships.

It is a practice rooted in values: balance, empathy, respect, bravery, honesty, humility, trust, accountability, love.

Circles have the following components:

  • A circle keeper(s) keeps the circle accountable to the ground rules & participates equally in the circle; helps the group collectively share, as opposed to seeking or providing answers.
  • A talking piece keeps the attention on one person at a time. Grab a talking piece now from around you.
  • Ground rules create parameters so that people can share and listen effectively.
  • Structure is created with an opening and closing of the circle. It can be an intention, an expression of gratitude, or taking a breath together.

In the past, we have led circles to process the Fall 2019 release of the AAU survey data and Chanel Miller’s book Know My Name. We have also facilitated circles as part of debriefing Beyond Sex Ed and the contested 2018 nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.

There are two ways for you to experience a conversation circle: 

  1. You can request a SHARE: Eduation team staff member to facilitate a conversation circle for your group. To do this, request a training and indicate you are interested in a conversation circle and which topic the circle will be related to.
  2. Facilitate a circle on your own using the facilitator guide below that the SHARE: Education team developed. Please feel free to adapt the guide to suit your individual and organizational needs and goals. Duplication permitted with attribution (The Office of Sexual Assault and Relationship Abuse Education & Training at Stanford University). We would love to hear from you if you’ve used this guide; email us at saraoffice@stanford.edu. Gratitude to Native American Cultural Center for their help with this guide.