The Way of Council is a method for group sharing that empowers people to speak and listen with authenticity and empathy. We use it to facilitate meaningful conversations as part of our outdoor team building days and programmes.
It's a warm and sunny day. The kettle's boiling on the fire, birds sing and flit about in the trees.
We are 12, sitting on log stumps in a circle: it's the beginning of a School of the Wild day in the woods.
We have a few activities planned and begin with an opening circle and check-in. One by one we go round and speak in answer to 3 questions:
The talking stick that Alistair found just outside the circle proves perfect for the job, and in the way of sharing circles the world over, it's picked up in turn, giving each of us the opportunity to talk, one at a time without interruption, until we're done.
I'm surprised and moved by the depth of what is said.
People feel safe enough to be meaningful, and share honest feelings. About where they're at, and what's important. How much they miss spending time in nature. How it feels like home to be here.
As we listen to each other, we come together as a group.
I shouldn't be surprised. This is the Way of Council. A ritual that derives from Native American traditions and is used by people the world over to facilitate authentic and meaningful group conversations.
It sets the day up perfectly, and we relax, have fun and enjoy being out here together. Thanks I'm sure to the successful sharing at the start.
4 Rules for a Successful Sharing Circle
To make the process work for a group circle, start by setting an intention for the sharing, which could be what brought you here, and then use these 4 guidelines for sharing:
1. Speak from the heart
When it's your turn, speak in the moment from your heart, and speak with simplicity and honesty. Tell your own story as honestly as you can.
2. Listen with your heart
Listen without judgment, listen with an open mind, even if you disagree with what the person is saying. Try not to comment in your head on what they're saying or think about a response.
3. Speak spontaneously
Resist the temptation to prepare what you're going to say while they're talking. If you're thinking about what you're going to say, then you're not listening completely to the person who's speaking. If you don’t pre-plan, you'll surprise yourself with what comes out when it's your turn.
4. Be lean with words
Keep in mind that there are others who'd like a chance to speak, and that there is limited time. This stops you from rambling!
*With thanks to Alistair Duncan, who learned these rules from the Wilderness Guides.
At School of the Wild, we bring leaders and teams outside to help them reconnect and think differently, so that they are inspired to change the way they work. We incorporate activities like Way of Council to create space for meaningful conversations. Have a look at our outdoor team building programmes for leaders and teams or get in touch for more info.
Author & Curator
Nigel Berman is the founder of School of the Wild.