Six tips from the last 6 Circles, what every Circlekeeper should know!

You can thank a marketing tip I read, used and seen time and time again.  Use numbers to catch someones attention.  I’ve also read (or interpreted) this: people are more likely to read your communitication  (blog/email, newsletter) if you tip them off how long the committment is.

For example I had free time to catch up on my new subscription to ‘Runners World’ (don’t ask, long story, it now confuses me).  Anyway – as I gathered back issues to get ready to read all three.  I saw Numbers on every cover.  25 Food, Lose 5 pounds,  42 training tips.  So with that I bring you today’s

6 Tips from the past 6 Circles

All 6 Circles happened last week.  It’s a great slice of ‘field research’.  My mindset is back into writing the book, so my eyes and ears are open to content for the book.  Since it is going to be a manual on how to do Safe Teen Driving Circles, Circlekeeping was of note.

First the 6 Circles:

1.) College Class – I am using class time to provide the Advanced Students and Community Members training.  This week we focued on Conferencing.  Read a blog about that here.

2.) The Police Department and Municipal Court ‘Driver Improvement Class’.  I will do an entire post on this.

3. & 4.) I ran two Victim Empathy Seminars on Thursday.  When the person directly harmed (victim) are not available – the community is part of a Circle to discus the harm.  I put victim in ( ) because we are all Victim to someones harmful behavior.

5.) Circle 5 was to provide a storyteller practice and provide students Service Learning or volunteer hours.  The storyteller is working to fullfill a court ordered requirement after being charged with a felony, he killed his passanger after drinking, speeding, no seatbelts.

6.) High School Circle – basically a Safe Teen Driving Circle, but the students were not from a Driving School or Drivers Education Class.  The teacher has SCVRJP visit her ‘Life Skills’ class each time she teachers it.

The 6 Tips:

1.) Community – We are always in Community.  When introducing the Circle itself, remind everyone that this is a community.  How we treat each other is important.  After we have all confirmed we will ‘honor’ the values, I usually toss out a very strong positive statement.  “Great!  now we know how we will treat each other” or “Excellent, Consensus!  I love that part of a Circle”.

2.) Talking Piece – Use one with significance.  In an earlier Circle I had asked the group (via Circle) what would they use as a talking piece.  One of my students said a ‘Snicker Bar’.  When passing the talking piece to his left, the person reacted asking “how would that work, wouldn’t it mel?”.  He answered,”well you would freeze it first”.  In my head; “Oh gosh, I didn’t get that lesson in!”   Talking Pieces are supposed to have significance.  Introducing one lets you role model ‘circlespeak’.  The next day at a luncheon, they were serving Snicker bars!  Yes with the lunch meat sandwich and bag of chips.  A nice community member, gave me his Snicker bar.  I laughed, and he said something about making me really happy.  I said “long story”, put the candy bar in my bag for our next Circle. 

Each person that came to that next Circle laughed when they saw it in the Center.  I was able to work in my lesson because I told someone this whole story and she said “that will never work with high schoolers, they’d fight over who got to eat it at the end”.  So I repeated her comments at my next Circle!

I had another great experience using someone else’s favorite talking piece.  That will be a different post.

3.) Space- the process not the outcome.  You create space for genuine listening and speaking.  When your focus is to create that you really have no control over what is going to happen in the “Circlespace”.  What is amazing is that once placed in the Center.  Meaning the issue has been spoken by one, to the Center.  The process somehow naturally works itself out.  For example in a Victim Empathy Seminar when a Mom got to speak to the impact of her daughters and the others behavior.  As she spoke her anger rose and almost to the point of tears then in hurt.  I believe hurt resides under anger anyway.  The other 3 parents, 4 youth, 2 community members and myself gave her the very basic.  We listened.  As the Circle closed she reflected on how much better she felt, how so much was off her chest.  We were all okay with that.  I could only imagine how her expression would have gone – if not being put in a Circle space.  If I was her kid, I would have gotten upset, angry at her.  She really shared how she felt and all of us understood, differently because we were next to her instead of in front of.  This positioning of our space allowed for her daughter to really hear her.

4.)Subtleness- you are always cue-ing the Circle.  I have been told I make Circlekeeping look easy.  I think that is just ‘preparedness’.  But I have been watching myself to give others ideas on it.  Here is one of the ‘cues’ I give people in Circle.  ‘Contribution to the Center’.  I talk about equality and explain that is why we are all ‘equal distance’ from the center.  After the plates are in the Center I ask for volunteers to make them into a Circle or make them all touching.  This little ‘cue’ gets almost everyone to lean forward and move the plates.  The entire Circle is given some responsibility for making the center.

5.)Flexibility- you have to ‘go with the flow’ in Circle.  This week one of my service learning students was really taken with the Circle he sat in on.  He totally processed some life experiences.  To the point one of the youth asked him if he was there as a victim.  The sharing the service learning student did, as a community member/volunteer was not really on my agenda.  It so added to what others needed to hear.

6.)Storytellers-It’s standard practice at SCVRJP, we give our storytellers the feedback we get.  All programs have evaluation forms, both community members and speakers get to review these.  This is a way to support our speakers.  To really let them know they made a difference.  It is so important to let your participants support the storyteller – remind those filling out evaluations that your storyteller will be reading them.  Supporting people willing to open up and tell a story is really really important.

This is the longest post 1011 words!  Double my average post.  I hope you found the tips helpful, let me know if you try any of these – or if you do something similiar.

Kris