Strategic use of questions, when facilitating talking circles.

How many questions do you ask in a day?  How many times do you ask questions that you either a) ask to be polite or b.) already know the answer.  A type a) question might be “how was your weekend”, “how was your day”.  Conversation started, questions that get a little dialogue going.  Surface level dialogue.

A type b.) question might be “are you done with that assignment?”.  It is likely that if I ask that, I know it is not done, but I need to ask as a way to nudge that person I want it completed.  Maybe I am grouchy today, but as I think about questions I ask, I do the very little real inquiry compared to the planning and purposefulness of Circle questions.

When you are keeping a Circle, asking a questions is really important.  Setting the tone, role modeling, guiding the process vs facilitating is important.  Asking questions that you pass the talking piece around is a develop-worthy skill.  I’ve learned by asking double questions, run on questions and questions that didn’t make much sense.

The reason I’ve learned what types work and don’t work is because of trying.  There is the obvious and the not obvious reason for asking questions.  Obviously you want to get the conversation going.  Obviously you want to hear how a person was impacted.  What you keep under the radar the “not obvious” part is empowering people, connecting people to each other by getting them to share non-threatening information.  The “not-obvious” part is getting practice with the talking piece and practicing the lost art of one voice at a time.

I have some great coworkers, who are picking up quickly and I want to share a recent set of questions designed for a Circle to build community in a drug court program.

Phase One:
     – If you weren’t here right now, where would you be?
     – Who is your favorite super hero and why?
     – What is something you have always wanted to learn?
Phase Two:
     -What is something you are good at and how did you learn how to do it?
     – What is a valuable lesson you had to learn “the hard way”?
     – What is your most prized possession and why?
Phase Three:
     -How do you get support/ what fills your spirit?
     -What do you do when you are faced with an uncomfortable situation? (Triggers, cravings, etc.)
     -How do you think the community is affected by drug use?
Phase Four:
     – What do you plan to do each day to honor your committment to staying sober? (Honor any committment you have made)
     – How can you support others in Drug Court? (Others you are involved with)
     -What is one thing you will take away from tonight’s circle?