The power of a dialogue circle

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What is a dialogue circle?

Dialogue circles the way I know them, can be summarized as:

a group of people sitting in circle, sharing their thoughts and feelings, speaking from the heart and ‘I’-perspective, listening to each other without interrupting one another and using a talking stick to do so!

Do you need to sit in a circle? 

Can we not just sit down and talk and achieve the same?

In my humble opinion… no, not really.

A circle has a distinct feature that most of us don’t realise.

Circles do not have heads

There is no head to a circle like a head to a table. Do not take it from me. Try it for yourself. Sit down at a table and share and then try the same sitting in a circle with no tables and an empty space in between.

However, this does not mean there is no ranking in a circle.

Where there is people, there is ranking

You cannot have a group of people and not also have the phenomenon of ranking. What this means is that between people there are different kinds of mechanisms at play, that all involve power and as such ranking between people.

Elements that are involved in how we rank people (and we all do, mostly subconsciously) are age, experience, race, function or role, sex/gender, language/accent, religion, finances etc.

What does a talking stick add?

A talking stick adds peace and quiet to your mind. It allows your heart to speak. And, most importantly, it gently enforces everyone else to listen. A talking stick in fact is a listening stick more than a talking stick. One of the basic rules when using a talking stick is that the one holding the stick, is the only one allowed to talk!

Learn the act of 3D-Listening

When listening to someone sharing in a circle that uses a talking stick, everyone is challenged to listen not just with their minds but with their hearts! To try and truly understand what it being said. And not to think about what to respond back, get all worked up about what to say when it is your turn, worry about which direction the discussion or debate should be going. None of this matters. It is all about listening. Empathic listening.

3D Listening is listening with your mind, heart, body and soul

You can almost leave out your mind as minds have a way of getting in between us and the one talking. Minds have opinions, expectations, desires and much more.

How about our inner dialogues?

How about our inner voices?

Each one of us has voices that we listen more or less to.

The voices in us that make us smile, dance, sign, live, love, be happy and fulfilled. These voices lift us up.

And what about the tough voices? 

Do you listen to the voices in your head that talk about anger, fear, envy, jealousy, shame, guilt, dread and more. Do you listen to those? We listen to these more often than not, however, the quality of our listening is not always good enough. Meaning that those voices take over, but are not properly listened to.

What if you could have a talking circle with all these voices taking their own chair and the talking stick going around between them?

What if you 3D-listened to the tough voices in your own head?

What if you listened with you heart, body and soul to what these parts have to tell you?

Might be one of the most interesting circles you ever attended…

How does a good inner dialogue

help the dialogue in your team?

When you do practice your inner dialogue and truly learn to listen to all the voices inside of yourself, you will become skilful at express the various voices inside of you with much more depth, time, care and understanding. With a better understanding of yourself, you develop empathy for the voices of all the team members in an outer dialogue.

It takes determination but the more you are able to fully appreciate your own voices, the more you will be able to embrace all the different voices in your own team.

How to introduce the talking stick dialogue circle? 

Oftentimes when I introduce the talking stick and the principle of dialogue circles in a professional setting, the first reactions range from disbelief, lack of interest, laughs, don’t want to’s and more.


the circle and the talking stick always result in all participants realising that they have been sharing – whatever they were sharing – in a different way. More open, more honest, more thoughtful, quieter, more respectful and more in tune with their colleagues. The expressive types have had their time on stage whereas the more timid people find themselves being listened to in ways that never happened before. Managers and staff become equals for a change with no one in charge.

Lasting effects?

Just like one session with a coach will not radically change your life, one internal dialogue circle will not be enough to listen to all there is inside of you. Similarly, one dialogue circle in a professional environment is not going to make a lasting difference. Not yet.

It will however give people a different experience, a different perspective and a different feeling. Every journey starts with one step and this applies to the introduction of dialogue as well. Just start.

I one heard a team member say ‘let’s have one of those madeleine-circles to talk about this’. This was not a compliment for me, but for the power of dialogue.

Watch this clip on the Power of Dialogue.

Have a dialogue and move from fear to connection and from connection to lasting change

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