'Why do we sit in a circle' was one of the first questions I was pondering and writing about after starting the SALT-course. In fact, there were more questions: 'How does hierarchy impact meetings?', 'How do rank differences show up in meetings?', 'What does a non-hierarchical setting means?', 'How do you create a non-hierarchical setting?', 'What will sitting in a circle do?'. These are my answers, based on my experiences in private and business situations. 

When hierarchy is involved in a meeting (in fact in every situation) ideas and thoughts do not flow. Rank difference can show up by cutting off people, by pushing through a solution, by intimidation or being intimidated. 

A non-hierarchical setting means that everyone is equal in being a human being, that there is no right or wrong in the sense that all that is being said is part of the voice of the system and should be treated like that. 

How I create non-hierarchical settings? By choosing a round table if possible. By not sitting on the head of the table if I have a certain role where hierarchy can be suggested. By treating everybody equal. And if possible I prefer a circle without a table in the middle.

So sitting in a circle for me is all about being equal. That doesn't mean that all have to agree. It is about listening what the others are saying and learn from that. I also learn from someone I don't agree with.

Sitting in a circle means no barriers. Sitting in a circle means flow, together you can go round and round and round .....

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Comment by MOSES OKOMBO AYANY on April 25, 2018 at 1:32pm

It is about equality, unity, and openness.

Comment by Margot on November 23, 2017 at 2:44pm

Hi Rituu,

An example where people sat in a circle? I don't have an as colourful example as your picture. Although I can describe a situation.

A few years ago I was manager of a small department. One of the teams consisted of only men who did technical work. Before I came there something had happened that poisoned the relationships and the atmosphere. There were a few camps and some didn't talk with each other anymore. Imagine how it must have been to work in a situation like that. Of course this was of influence on the atmosphere of the whole department.

I asked the men for a gathering in my room. The furniture I had put to the side and there was a circle of chairs, so there was nothing in between (except for some angry looks and crossed arms). I had some open questions for them and had them talk about what they wished for for their work and for the communality of the department.

The problem wasn't solved in that meeting, it was to short for that and the problem to complex. Still I hope I planted some seeds of how to interact in a more respectful way.

If I had known by then what I learned later (about heart at war and heart at peace) I probably could have been more effective.

Also in trainings I have the participants sit in a circle. So no one sits at the side or at the back, everyone is equally important. Last year I gave a training on respectful relationships to a group of people who have difficulties in getting acces to the labour market. For this group of people it was really important to be in a circle because all of them had physical or psychological difficulties. It takes courage to talk about that and sitting in a circle helps to open up.

Comment by Margot on November 15, 2017 at 4:29pm

That is beautiful Cécilia. I haven't heard about the Circleway before. Thank you for sending the link to their website! 

Comment by Célicia Theys on November 15, 2017 at 4:06pm

Absolutely Margot, my experience echoes yours also :) !

Here is what "the circle way" organisation has to say: "We have always known that the circle is a natural way to gather for conversations. Circle is democratic space where we can look each other in the eye, lean in and listen, and include all voices with a sense of equality. The practice of circle often leads to more creative options, wiser decisions, clearer actions. "

Their website has a lot of resources to help hosts hold meaningful circles: http://www.thecircleway.net/resources/

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