This chapter is also available as audiobook
“You will always outlive my concept of you. And, I will always have a concept for you to outlive.” – Guy Sengstock, founder of Circling
“There is no place to get to but more here” – Decker Cunov, co-founder of Circling
In this chapter we get right into the attitudes and communications that are most likely to serve truth and connection. This is your job as a relational leader: serve truth and connection, all the time, as best you can. And when you can’t, or make a mistake, name it and apologize.
These are guidelines only and must be tested against your intuition at all times. As such, there are suggestions here that may be wrong or not fit for you. If so, ignore the suggestion. Also, don’t try too hard to be a “good circler”, just do your best to follow and align with the energy of the group, stay true to yourself, and remember that there is no right or wrong way to do this, and that even the best and most experienced leaders sometimes make “mistakes”.
This is the final “introduction chapter” for Circling. After reading this chapter you will be fully prepared to find a circle and start practicing. You can’t learn to circle from a book, you will need to practice. In Parts 2 and 3 of this book, I will continue to draw distinctions, give advice, talk about the cultural context, etc. But finishing Part 1 of this book ought to be enough to get you started.
Circling vs. Authentic Relating
In this book, I am defining “Circling” as the formal practice of Authentic Relating within a group, and “Authentic Relating” as the informal practice, also known as “Authentic Relating on the street”. You can practice Authentic Relating at any time with another person, or else in a group while in a bar, a restaurant or waiting in line for a movie, and without communicating your intentions. You can practice Authentic Relating seamlessly wherever you show up. Indeed, once you get good at it you will probably want to do it all (or most) of the time. Even if you are not consciously or deliberately practicing, it will probably inform and fundamentally change the nature of your relationships and how you show up for people.
There are a few ways of doing this.
The first option is to say nothing explicitly, simply try to increase the quality of your listening and emotional presence with someone, and/or ask them personal questions, giving free reign to your curiosity. Make jokes with people, smile at them, give compliments. Let them know that you see them and are interested in them, engage them any way you can which is fun for you. Alternatively, just double your appreciations and your positive impact statements, that will also do the job. If you get a smile in return, or else they open up and start sharing with you, you are a winner.
Another option, maybe a better one especially in a group, would be to say something like “I would like to play a game, who is in?” and then tell them the game that you want to try. There are a large number of Authentic Relating Games in Sara Ness’ Games Manual, which you can find on www.authrev.com and also on Amazon. Or you can make up your own games. My favorite is called “the hot-seat game”, which I have already described in Chapter 1. You can suggest to your friends to play hot-seats or any other A/R game. The hot-seat game is especially fun and suitable to play at someone’s birthday party (i.e. put them on the hot-seat and explain the rules to the crowd).
The problem of “Authentic Relating on the street”
Starting below I will share 13 elements of effective Authentic Relating (these are arbitrary, by the way, there are many more). For some of these elements, you must approach things differently if you are doing Authentic Relating on the street versus in a formal circle. I will highlight the different approach required for each element in “boxed text” such as this.
1. Notice feelings and body sensations
Until we are connected to our felt experience of life, which includes our experience of being in our body in this moment, we have little to give to others in an emotional way.
When you start Circling, you will likely often hear questions in the nature of: “what are you feeling right now?”, or “what is going on for you right now”, or “how did that land” (when someone gives you feedback, or else a significant “reveal” of where they are at in relationship to you). These questions are all an invitation from others to deepen our experience of what it’s like to be us, and then to communicate that. They are asking us these questions because they want to feel us more in order to get our world.
People have a greater or lesser skill, or ability, to accurately feel into and discern the true nature of their current emotional experience. Some of us are quite “heady” and have trouble identifying and articulating our felt experience. Others feel so much they have trouble distinguishing their deepest and truest emotions from all the “noise”. Almost all of us have trouble, to a greater or lesser degree, in distinguishing our own true feelings and desires from the projections, needs and demands of others, and/or in articulating those feelings in the midst, perhaps, of our fear and anxiety that we will not be received – or worse, that people will be angry and reject us, even as we attempt to express our deepest truths and most tender secrets.
For those of us of a more intellectual orientation, myself included, a question such as “what are you feeling in your body now” can occur as downright annoying, a distraction. Of course we can choose to express that annoyance in a circle, but generally the best attitude is to assume that when someone is inquiring into our felt experience, and/or giving us feedback that they are not feeling us, or else feeling us a lot but without clarity or discernment of what’s most important, that their intervention is coming from a desire to connect with us more deeply. And to appreciate them from that place, given their attempt, no matter how awkward, to get to know us.
2. Connect with the group – up to a point (follow your aliveness)
Once you start noticing your responses to the circle, and have made your best commitment to “presence” (however you interpret that, but think non-attachment, non-reactivity, non-doing), things can get interesting – possibly even extremely interesting. Specifically: your own desires, attachments and aversions will start to surface and you will have a choice to either look at them or space-out (or numb out). You will be faced with choices of whether to communicate your feelings, and how to do it. All kinds of emotions can come up, from boredom to attraction to rage to vague un-nameable discomforts and more.
Ideally your attitude towards these thoughts, feelings and sensations would be to “welcome everything”. This is fundamental to circling and we will be returning to this idea throughout this book. For now, I only want to suggest you try this: connect or align with the group as much as possible, but without betraying yourself. In other words, follow your aliveness.
To “follow your aliveness” means to stay close to your truth in relation to yourself and to other people. It does not mean always communicating your truth (this topic also we will return to). It means accepting that how you are and what you feel, is okay. You cannot force connection, even though you may enjoy it and think it’s a good thing; and you can’t avoid feelings of disconnection, even though these feelings may scare you, make you angry, cause you to judge yourself and others, or feel like a failure.
Sometimes in a circle, maybe even frequently, you will either be feeling nothing, or else you won’t know exactly what you are feeling or how to articulate it. There is nothing wrong with that and indeed it is inevitable. Don’t beat yourself up for it. You can speak of your flat emotional state, of your confusion or anger or whatever, if you like. Or you can just be silent and wait. It’s up to you and it’s all good.
The closer you stay to your aliveness, and to your truth in relation to other people, the more likely it is that you and the group will “drop” into connection. Learn to trust yourself in that, to trust that your showing up authentically in your fear, confusion, rage, vulnerability or whatever, is not just serving you, but is also serving the group.
The more you circle, formally or informally, the more you will develop this fundamental skill of trusting yourself and your reactions, also known as “trusting your experience”. Note that “trusting your experience” may at times consist of taking challenges or negative feedback from group members around your true intent and way of showing up. This will carry the “trust” one step deeper, of course. Be aware, as well, that learning to trust yourself and to distinguish and articulate your feelings in an accurate and yet compassionate way, is an “infinite game”, something you will likely be working on for the rest of your life. Have some compassion for yourself, because sometimes it will be hard.
3. “Get Their World”: Lead from Attention, Curiosity, and Empathy
To “lead” in a circle means, essentially, to model to others what we want to happen in the group. This is much more effective, in Circling and in all human relationships, than demanding to be treated a certain way, or asking other people to be more or less of how they are currently being – although there can be room for that, as well, especially when they feel accepted and seen by us.
Ultimately, everyone wants to be seen, understood, and accepted for their unique qualities and gifts. The more we do this, the more likely it is that other people will reciprocate. But even if they don’t reciprocate, the act of offering other people our attention, curiosity, and empathy can be very rewarding.
Curiosity is a desire to know someone, and is the first step of empathy, the attempt to accurately mirror back to someone their felt experience.
Genuine curiosity and empathy are extraordinarily effective in human relationships, simply because this is not usually something that people get a lot of. Curiosity about people and the desire to know and be known are universal human longings; and yet almost all of us are, to a greater or lesser degree, wounded or shut-down in this area. Many of us are quite timid in expressing our natural human curiosity towards others, often out of social conditioning about respecting other people’s privacy – and while this is true in some cases, in other cases, people are very happy to share their intimate feelings with us. With a little prompting, they might even share things that they have never shared with anybody before – even if they have just met you. Such is the strength of the human hunger for authentic connection.
Expressions of Attention, Curiosity, and Empathy
The primary tool of empathy is called reflection. Simply repeat what you heard the person say, maybe even in their exact words. For instance, say:
- What I hear you saying is… Am I getting it right?
As a caution here, don’t do this mechanically. If you are not feeling or understanding what they are saying, you can follow your reflection with a clarifying question:
- … but I am not sure I am fully getting you (and I want to get you), because I don’t understand…
- Or else: but I am still a bit confused about…
For the rest, providing curiosity and empathy is, for the most part, quite simple. Try any of the following:
- “What’s it like to be here with us (or, to be the center of attention)?”
- “How is it to share that with us?”
- “I am curious about…”
- “You seem upset right now (or angry, or irritated, or anxious, or peaceful, or soft…). Is that true? If so, can you say more about that?
- “I am imagining that you feel…”
Another frequently-used (and very effective) aspect of empathy is called validation, the attempt to articulate their felt experience in a way that lets them know that you understand why they are feeling this way and you approve of them as such. You can try:
- “That makes sense to me because…”
- “If I were in your shoes, I would be angry all the time at so-and-so, etc., and so I find it quite amazing that you are able to behave so lovingly”
- “Of course you are doing that (or feeling that way), I can totally get it because…”.
You can improvise endlessly around these themes. It is really quite unusual for people to not respond to genuine curiosity, or to attention that is coming from a place of interest and with no ulterior motives, at least motives that you are aware of. In fact, most of the time, it is we who are hung-up about asking sensitive questions, and not the people that we have curiosity about. Even in a situation with a stranger, you can often “prepare” them for a sensitive question by asking permission or expressing vulnerability, as in:
- “I am shy about asking you this, but…”
- “I am intrigued by you and wonder if you would be willing to tell me about…”
- and you can also open directly with an appreciation: “You occur to me as a very open person, so I am going to take the chance to ask you this…”.
Try this. You may be shocked at the results.
Empathy: Authentic Relating on the street
- In offering empathy, you will need to accept that sometimes you will be dead wrong in discerning or articulating another person’s feelings. If so, take it gracefully. There is no need to defend yourself or justify what made you think this way about them. Besides, it’s highly probable that even if you are dead wrong, that your suggesting to someone of how they might feel will help them get clearer. It is also important to use ownership language here (see later on). You really cannot know how someone else feels, you can only take a guess, and then ask them if you are right.
- You may be deeply curious about an aspect of someone that they don’t want to reveal or that makes them very uncomfortable. You have to be sensitive to this. Don’t take it personally if they don’t want to share, or even if they get angry at the question. The rule of thumb here is: don’t restrict your genuine curiosity, and ask the question anyway, up to the point in which it becomes clear that this is a direction that they don’t want to go. Honor yourself in asking the question you are curious about, and also honor the other person and respect their right to not answer.
4. Validate and Appreciate
Besides providing attention, curiosity and empathy, offering validation and appreciation are also practices which are virtually guaranteed to transform all your relationships, in Circling and outside of it. This may seem obvious, but the practice is so powerful and so simple, at least in theory, that it bears repeating.
Most of us resist telling people that we find them interesting and attractive, or their ways of being that we find loveable, courageous or intriguing. We all have our reasons for withholding, and we are also victims of a great deal of cultural conditioning relating to the inappropriateness of communicating feelings, be they positive or negative. But to achieve mastery in human relationships, it is essential to kill, once and for all, our internal messages that telling people how much we like them, or the reasons that we appreciate them, is inappropriate.
Part of the difficulty is that giving sincere appreciation is, oddly, scary. In addition to cultural conditioning, we may fear that telling people how much we like and admire them will be taken as a disguised attempt to get something from them, or get them to like us in return – and indeed this may be the case, we may need to examine our motives. Furthermore, there are cases where giving positive feedback and appreciation is simply not appropriate: you will probably not want to tell your boss how sexy you find them. At least not in the staff meeting. You must be sensitive to whether a person wants to be appreciated, and the kinds of appreciation they may be seeking. This can be tricky.
Nonetheless, the simple truth is that 90% of people will respond positively to a sincere compliment, validation or appreciation 90% of the time. And in many cases, even when they are not overly effusive or responsive to the appreciation, or dismiss it entirely (“you like that dress? That’s just an old thing”), they will secretly enjoy it and feel closer to you. So do not be overly timid.
Guidelines and Cautions
Appreciation and validation have some dangers, which relate mostly to other people’s perception of your sincerity and to the quality of your own vulnerability (i.e. it’s not a one-way street). Here are some guidelines.
- It is very important to make an effort to appreciate someone for their impact on you, rather than your assessment or judgment about them, no matter how positive. “Praise” (sharing your positive judgment of someone) can be seen as the flip-side of blame, and may be manipulative. For instance: it is better to say “You seem so courageous to me, and I am so inspired by that” than “you are so courageous”. It is possible that a person might not see themselves as courageous, and if that is true, they will likely be more receptive to your communicating the impact they are having on you, which is inarguable for them, than in accepting that they are indeed, courageous. Your statement will be more believable and more powerful. (Note: this is another instance of the benefit of “trying to make an unarguable statement”, as discussed below).
- By the same token, it is best to appreciate something specific about them, rather than to make a general statement about them. For instance: “I love you so much” is not a bad thing to say, but it might be more effective to say “I love how clear you are in articulating what is important to you and in asserting your boundaries”. The latter statement gives more information. Sometimes this is referred to as “give a specific frame”. A “frame” is a specific event in time (“I felt you the most when you said…”) rather than a general statement.
- In appreciating someone, be careful of “people pleasing”. In other words, value whether your appreciation has truth, depth and importance to you, more than you value trying to make the other person happy and relaxed, or to have them like you more. Of course, your desire to please can be present. That is fine but you may want to own it. You could say something like, “I know this is stupid, and maybe inappropriate, but I wish you could see things how I do, of how harshly you are judging yourself and that your behavior isn’t as bad as you imagine it to be”. What you are owning up to here is your desire to make them happy. It’s not your job to make other people happy, and especially not in circling J.
- Be direct and be succinct. Don’t go on and on about how wonderful they are. The goal here is to give them something to reflect on, so be brief and put the attention back on them as quickly as possible.
- Finally, consider the idea that the skills of directness and brevity are actually something to practice in all of your human interactions, so start now with the “easy communications”, and then once you get better at it, move on to the more difficult communications, in which brevity will be even more important.
Compliments and Appreciations: Authentic Relating on the street
Compliments and appreciations are extremely powerful for creating connection, especially when there is not an implicit context for connection such as exists in a formal circle. As such, compliments and appreciations have a big place in Authentic Relating.
In Authentic Relating you can be much more relaxed and uninhibited in giving compliments and appreciations. While you would never want to be insincere, it is more permissible in Authentic Relating to give compliments out of a pure desire (or at least part-desire) to have an impact on somebody and to have them notice you, like you and want to be your friend.
This takes us into some gray zones of human relationship (is it okay to manipulate someone for their own good?). It is a deep question, but there is a rule-of-thumb which you might find helpful. Ask yourself: do I have a sincere desire to contribute to another person by communicating something true about myself and how I perceive them? And (important) is this communication likely to be a contribution to them? If you don’t get a clear “yes” to those two questions, maybe it’s best to remain silent.
As an alternative to expressing direct appreciation, you can communicate interest, attraction or connection intent to someone non-verbally; and you can also visualize connection (check the Heart Math process, www.HeartMath.com – this is very powerful).
But with those caveats: don’t hold back. Try and imagine what the person would like to hear, and if it is at all true for you, just say it. Sometimes it is even okay to communicate sexual interest or attraction towards strangers (in a formal circle it is almost always okay to communicate attraction). But use your judgment and don’t take it personally if the person rejects your appreciation.
5. Lead from Vulnerability
In addition to offering curiosity, empathy, and appreciation, which are aspects of trying to elicit, understand and support another person’s felt experience, you will also want to reveal your own felt experience. Sharing your true feelings, and especially those feelings which you are most afraid to reveal, angry, ashamed, or guilty about (the “unacceptable” feelings), is the second key aspect of leadership in Circling.
Why is sharing vulnerability such a powerful practice for creating connection? First because it is a courageous act of love. People usually want to know us, they want to feel connected to us and get our world. When we share our feelings with people without a demand or expectation that they respond in any particular way, we give other people the opportunity to contribute to us.
The difference between “complaining” and vulnerability is that in true vulnerable sharing we are opening ourselves up to feedback, rather than speaking for the pleasure of hearing our own voice or of making ourselves look better than other people. True vulnerability opens up a dialogue, and for this reason it tends to be very attractive; but it’s also taking a risk, because people may not be interested in contributing to us in that moment, and because they may respond with fear to our vulnerability or be repelled by it. Vulnerability can be scary, on both the sending and the receiving end of it, and this is perhaps what makes it so interesting and exciting. Nonetheless, in many cases people will thank us afterwards for telling them how we really feel, for opening up a conversation that has the potential for being transformational for everyone.
And the second reason why sharing vulnerability creates connection, is that often people see it as permission to share more of themselves as well. Typically, as we share more, so do they, which then gives us permission to say even more and get more real still. Ideally, this keeps on amplifying so long as we are with the person, or with the group; and the next time we come back together, we continue where we left off and maybe go deeper still.
You may find this experience quite addictive. You may find that you can’t get enough of it. Some people, including myself, believe that humans are meant to relate like this all the time. But we tend to forget about the power and importance of curiosity, empathy and vulnerability. We tend to forget the extraordinary impact that these simple practices can have on others and ourselves.
Most of us have a great deal of attention on ourselves, on our own thoughts, problems and needs. Learning to enlarge that circle of attention is the essence of becoming more fully human. We do this by paying attention to others – deep attention – and then reflecting back to them what we see, or imagine, of their internal state. Almost everyone will brighten visibly when you do this with them. It is even possible that it will be the first time in their lives that they receive real kindness from anyone, or that they feel entirely seen and understood by another human being. It’s possible that in one minute, you can alter the course of their life.
Being vulnerable means to share both positive and “negative” feelings that you may have towards yourself and others. In choosing what to share and what to hold back, you have to judge whether you are serving truth and connection. This is not always easy to determine.
In Circling, as in all human relationships, you can (and should) be very uninhibited about sharing positive feelings you have towards others. You can also be fairly uninhibited in sharing your own fears, anxieties and insecurities about yourself. You do, however, need to be cautious in sharing negative feelings about others. When you do feel a need to share negative feelings, it really ought to come from a place of commitment to connection – of wanting to enter a space of truth with someone with the goal of achieving deeper understanding of them and of yourself, but without a demand for agreement or closure or even listening. It’s also very important to use “ownership language”, which I will talk about later.
Thus it is quite important to examine your own motives prior to sharing negative feelings with another person. To the extent there is any sense of “make-wrong” towards the other person, and that you are speaking to them out of a demand that they change their behavior in order to please you or ease your own suffering, or out of a desire to teach them something such as the “correct” way to behave, you need to go back to the drawing board and find a different attitude or style of expression. This is especially true when you feel a sense of rightness, or even “righteous indignation” about their behavior. If you don’t do this, the other person might hear you say (and this may in fact be true), that their way of being is distressing to you, that you judge them for it and you need them to immediately stop – as opposed to your communicating your judgments of them, or anger or upset, out of a sincere desire to understand why they are being this way, so that you can (hopefully) make peace with it and return to a space of mutual caring and understanding.
In addition to the above, the fact of your having a strong reaction to someone in the nature of “righteous indignation”, along with a reduced sense of empathy towards them, points directly and irrefutably to something powerful that has been triggered in you and which you are trying to fix in them. This could be a good time to share and reflect on what’s going on for you, rather than attempting to fix them or change their behavior.
In a formal circling context with a skilled facilitator, if you’re not sure whether you’re triggered or not, or what your motive is for sharing a negative feeling, my advice would be: try sharing it anyway, and trust in the ability of the group to help you figure out what is happening. As a powerful way to invite inquiry into your experience, you can state something along the lines of “I’m not sure what my motive is in sharing this, but it feels important”. This is a great way to turn a confusing impulse into vulnerable leadership: “I feel this and I want to share it but I don’t know why or even whether I should share it.”
Sharing vulnerability and Negative Feedback: Authentic Relating on the street
When practicing Authentic Relating, such as in every-day conflict situations with people in your life, you have to be even more careful, more discerning and more disciplined about giving negative feedback.
The reason for that has already been stated: you can’t assume a person in your life who hasn’t circled, such as a house-mate or business associate, is going to have skill and commitment to explore the space of connection with you. It is possible that they are angry and blameful towards you and have little interest in investigating the connection space between the two of you, which may be non-existent from their perspective. It’s possible they just want you to change or adapt to them in order to ease their own suffering, and they may not be very receptive to your telling them that their suffering is not your problem, and that they need to take greater ownership of their feelings and communicate more responsibly if they want to be heard by you – even though all this may be “true”.
The Non-Violent Communication (NVC) model can be very helpful in cases such as this. There is a considerable overlap between Circling and NVC, with the difference that NVC does not assume or ask the other person for a commitment to connection. NVC simply assumes that the other person has “needs” – for understanding, affection, belonging, acknowledgement etc. – and then tailoring your attitude and language towards meeting those needs in them (which, hopefully, will calm them down and make them more receptive to you). As such, NVC might be more attuned to the Authentic Relating practice.
Case Study: Sharing vulnerability through negative feedback
Let me give an example. Your housemate has been leaving dirty dishes and you feel a sense of outrage. After some introspection you track it down to this belief: “Caring and responsible people don’t leave dirty dishes. My housemate is demonstrating that he is irresponsible and doesn’t care for me”. Before you approach your housemate, you would be wise to consider: Is this belief really true? Have you yourself ever left dirty dishes for your mother to clean up? Are you justifying your anger towards your housemate by imagining that you are right, that there is a right way to behave, and that you have something to teach them about what’s right? What are the feelings and needs that might be alive in your housemate? Is it possible they are just overwhelmed and unhappy with their life, and doing their own dishes is difficult for them and has really nothing to do with you?
This is the kind of self-inquiry that we ought to consider prior to engaging another person in negative feedback. Even in cases where you feel completely justified and are dealing with a minimum acceptable behavior that you need to be respected, you would still be wise to approach the other person with curiosity about them, and try to express care rather than your unspoken (covert), or even overt make-wrongs – if you want to be heard, that is.
Sharing negative feelings with other people can be difficult under the best of circumstances. A “pure” Circling approach would be to share vulnerability, admit that you are upset and that you may not even know why: “As I hear you speak and express your anger, I feel strong resistance to you and also feel totally unseen and disconnected from you, and it is very painful for me”. But this is probably not a formula that you would want to try with your non-circler housemate who is attacking you for failing to do the dishes. In general, it is always tricky to challenge someone to some way of being that is different than how they are currently showing up (maybe fuller or more true, or more loving, at least from your perspective). This is a complex topic. We will return to it in the “Communicate Responsibly” section.
Refer also to the section about withholds (in the prior chapter). You would be wise to book a withhold session with a friend or acquaintance who is not connected to the problem, before you engage anyone in a sensitive conversation such as this.
6. Share Impact, Offer Reflection and Inquiry
“Sharing impact” is another aspect of vulnerability. It means to let people know how they occur to you, and particularly any emotional reactions you may be having to them: joy, excitement, sadness, anxiety, tension in your body, irritation, boredom, confusion, or whatever. You will particularly want to share any strong emotions that you are having in response to them.
Sharing impact is fundamental to the process of connection. Most people want to know and are intensely curious about how they occur to others, but are often afraid of asking directly. Many people, and all of us at times, carry an ongoing internal conversation when we are relating to someone. It might go like this: is this person liking me? Am I being appropriate here? Do they think I am smart, attractive, lovable…? Do I have bad breath? Are they noticing I forgot to brush my hair, or the stain on my shirt? Etc., etc. The beauty and power of Circling, as opposed to traditional ways of relating, is that in Circling we seek to expose this “meta-conversation”, and we have agreement and permission to do so.
“Impact” can be anything at all that you are thinking and feeling with respect to another person, but also anything that you are imagining that they are thinking and feeling. Technically speaking, what you yourself are thinking and feeling in relation to someone, and what you imagine they are thinking and feeling, are quite different things. But in practice, the two types of sharing will occur together.
Danger zones of sharing impact and offering reflection
- It is a truism that your thoughts and feelings towards another person – let alone your imagining of what they are thinking and feeling – will be colored by your own experiences, fears and projections (and in case you are not already aware of this, Circling will cause you to learn this quite rapidly). These imaginings, or even felt sensations, may not necessarily have any “truth” or reality to the other person, meaning that your reaction may be completely about you. This is in the nature of human relationships, that we are so frequently wrapped up in ourselves and our own experience that we do not see people accurately, and our internal reactions to others are often out of proportion to their real condition and intent. Therefore, you would be wise to be very humble in offering your feelings and perspectives to another person (maybe not all the time – there may be times that being very blunt is called for). But regardless, always attempt to use “ownership language”, and also don’t take it personally if the person is unmoved by your impact, or even responds negatively.
- It’s also possible that you may be entirely “right” in your analysis or diagnosis of somebody, or in your perception of their deeper emotions, but they won’t be ready to hear it or interested in what you have to share. To share a reflection with someone who is not interested in what you have to say, particularly a negative reflection, is not love, it is violence. This is not true in 100% of situations (your child may not be interested in your feelings about them playing in the street); but you can generally treat this as a firm rule in relating to adults: don’t share unwanted reflections unless you are fully owning them as your opinion and being vulnerable, i.e. communicating your distress / fear / anger / anxiety around their behavior. This relates to the important distinction between sharing a “reflection” as a judgment, versus a true vulnerable share that is not making anybody wrong. Your best bet in this kind of situation is either to say nothing at all until you get more internal clarity, or else return to vulnerable sharing, perhaps around your feeling of disconnection from this person. Also refer to the earlier section on “Authentic Relating and negative feedback” for ideas here.
- You can directly share that you have a judgment, provided that you state upfront that your judgment may not have any reality and that you present it from a desire for clarification rather than it being a truth of any kind.
- With those caveats, however, do not be timid, and particularly if you have a strong reaction to someone, either positive or negative. In general you can assume, until proven otherwise, that a person who is showing up in a circling group is going to be interested and curious about how they occur to people; more so, for instance, than a casual acquaintance might be. It’s okay to take risks in your communication.
- By the same token, if you are on the receiving end of a thought or feeling that doesn’t fit for you, you can say so, or you can just let it go, knowing that when all is said and done, most anything anybody shares with you is going to be about them. Remember that by sharing yourself vulnerably, you are not only taking an opportunity to discover yourself at a deeper level, you are giving others an opportunity to discover themselves through you.
Below are some alternative formulations for skillfully sharing negative feelings with people. Note that sometimes it is quite okay to be blunt, and the power of Circling is precisely that, that it’s okay to share your truth without worrying too much how the other person will respond. However, there is a thin line between “truth” and violence, as already mentioned. Use discernment, as in the following examples.
|“I am not feeling you”||If you don’t feel related to somebody in the circle, the most powerful approach is to try and figure out why. Because a statement such as “I am not feeling you” carries an undertone of “I should be feeling you and if I am not, it’s your fault”. Think instead: does this person remind you of somebody in your life you have issues with? Are you just having a bad day and struggling to put real attention on anyone? What’s it like to want to feel connected to someone, and not be able to? Even if the person is not “relatable” by you, the thoughts and feeling that arise in you from this experience might prove valuable. See the later section “Welcome everything” for more ideas here.|
|“I feel bored hearing you talk about your mother”||Same as above: explore what it would take to deepen your experience with the other person, and/or look at your own stuff that might be coming in the way. Put some “skin in the game” (your own skin) rather than standing in judgment or indifference to them. You could try:
“How are you feeling about your mother right now as you are talking?” [provide genuine curiosity, bring it to the present moment]
Or: “I would like to understand what is most important for you here. Is this really what you want to talk about? What are you getting from this conversation? [gently and respectfully challenge, as well as open an inquiry]
Or: “I can’t explain it, but I have a sense that there is something you want from this conversation that you are not getting. Is this true?” [Offer an inquiry, but respectfully. Because if the circlee responds “Yes this conversation is exactly what I am needing”, then you can back-off your judgment that you, and maybe everyone else as well, is bored, knowing that your attention is actually being received and appreciated. You might then become more engaged]
|“Why are you so upset? It happens to everybody”||Rather than expressing a judgment or lack of resonance with somebody upfront, try and look for places of resonance, as in “I felt you the most when you said…”. You can always return to negative feedback later, if necessary, and this will certainly be way more impactful once the circlee feels connected to you and senses that you get their world and are on their side|
Offering Reflection / Inquiry
To “offer reflection and inquiry” is to ask a question that deepens a person’s process, an offer to further distinguish or articulate their felt experience; or, alternatively, to offer them something that occurs to you in your experience of them, in the hope that it will be meaningful or illuminating to them.
Offering useful reflection and inquiry to people is a core skill of circling and a quite advanced one, which can only be learned through practice. This is a complex topic and one of the reasons that people go to advanced circling trainings. Some of it may just consist of “walking through” a person’s thinking and feeling experience with them (what they have already shared) and then asking for clarification. It may also involve noticing dissonance between the circlee’s words and their non-verbals, and/or articulating feelings that arise in you which seem out-of-sync or unrelated to the circlee’s words. I will give just a few examples here, and encourage the reader to pursue some of the resources listed later. (Some of these examples are drawn from Sara Ness’s The Art of Getting Somebody’s World).
- “You have used those words, ‘I don’t feel that anyone cares’, three times in this circle. What does that mean for you?” [Reflect and inquire]
- “You seem to be feeling something intense right now. I feel drawn to this. Are you willing to stay there with us?” [Reflect, empathize, appreciate, offer to slow it down]
- “What are you thinking about as you are looking around?” [Bring it to the present moment]
- “When you say ‘I don’t know’, what is going through your mind (or, how does that feel in your body)”? [Curious and inquire]
- “I’ve always thought you were scared of me. Is that true?” [Vulnerable share and curiosity]
- “When I ask how you are feeling, you seem angry, and I imagine you don’t want to be asked. Is that true?” [Reflect, empathize, inquire]
- “Did anyone else in the room think that he was angry?” [Engage the room, seek other perspectives]
- “You say you feel sad right now, but I notice you smiled after you said that. Did you notice that? What were you thinking?” [Reflect dissonance and inquire]
- When you hear a long explanation: “Are you afraid that we are not going to understand you?” [Reflect, inquire]
- When the group is asking a lot of questions, and the circlee gives short responses: “It seems that we really want to get to know you. Do you want to be known by us?” [Reflect, gently challenge]
- “We have touched three times on your desire to be accepted by us, but every time you say that you make a joke. Is it uncomfortable or scary for you to reveal that?” [Reflect dissonance and inquire]
- “What are you getting from this circle”, or “is there something shifting as you are talking?” [Bring it back to the present moment]
Sharing impact: Authentic Relating on the street
You have to be more cautious sharing impact in Authentic Relating. In essence you have to be more discerning of what the other person is able to (or wants to) hear from you. You need to have (proportionately) more attention on them and less on yourself and your own needs than you would in a formal circle (partly because in a formal circle you will also get help from the facilitators or other participants, while in Authentic Relating you will likely be on your own and there is therefore a greater risk that you can mess up really badly).
In Authentic Relating the connection intent (or listening) may not be so strong, so you want to do your best to make sure that you are really serving truth and connection in the interaction, rather than “talking above them” or asking them to share a context which they may not have a clue about, and which they might think is ridiculous even if you tried to explain it to them. Reverting to straight-up NVC, as already described, can be quite helpful here.
7. Own Your Experience (Communicate Responsibly)
“Owning your experience” means to frame your communications more in terms of your feelings, needs and desires in relationship to another person, and less in terms of your beliefs or judgments about the person, the reasons that you think this person is the way they are, or the things they are saying which you think are wrong. This is, once again, a very complex topic which we can only brush on here. You may want to check resources in Non-Violent Communication for ideas (Google Erik Erhardt’s paper Can we talk), and also explore a modality called Clean Talk, which is even more rigorous than NVC. Much of these practices involve getting internal clarity about the judgments and beliefs that underlie many of our communications, and then re-stating them from a perspective of our feelings and needs, rather than the unowned or unexpressed judgment.
Returning to the previous example: the judgment “responsible people do their own dishes” (or “kind people do not talk like this”): even if these judgments are “true”, this won’t help you change the other person’s behavior one iota, if they disagree with you or feel attacked by you, which is probable after hearing something like this. So, rather than coming at the person from this belief that is about your making them wrong for their behavior, you might open with a feeling statement, or even a vulnerable share, such as “I get really irritated with you when you leave dirty dishes and then I feel disconnected from you”; and then prepare to give empathy, at least to the extent that you are capable of it in the moment.
Some people call this “responsible communication”, and it is, unfortunately, quite rare. The normal, or “default” way that people communicate negative feelings is virtually guaranteed to increase reactivity on both sides and create distance. This style of communication is unlikely to further your goal, whether it be to get closer to another person, or else to get them to do something that you want, such as listen to you. You may feel momentarily better about “giving them a piece of your mind”, but in the end you will both likely be unhappy and unfulfilled.
You may even get into a cycle of reactivity with someone, of demands and counter-demands, threats and accusations, which can go on for years – when, perhaps, a direct statement of your need and simple acknowledgement of them and their need, would immediately solve the problem. This is the reason we call this type of communication “irresponsible”, but it would be just as accurate to call it “stupid communication”: nobody is being served by it. At best, you are wasting everybody’s time and energy, including your own. Responsible communication is a tough skill to practice when we are angry and upset with someone, or judging them to be bad and wrong. We all struggle with it.
Using ownership language well is an art form, however there is a rule-of-thumb which you might want to attempt: try and make an unarguable statement – a statement that nobody can disagree with because it references your own feelings, for which you are the undisputed authority. This will not stop people from challenging you or wanting to argue with you, but it will probably decrease their reactivity and make them more receptive to you. As already noted, owning your experience is especially important when giving someone negative feedback, or sharing about something that they are doing that is distressing to you or that makes you feel more distant from them.
Ownership language: Authentic Relating on the street
In your everyday life, just as in Circling, you will find “difficult people” who challenge you in some way or upset you in their way of being. In communicating your anger or distress with them, you will have to be careful not to lose them completely, to the point they won’t want anything to do with you (unless that is also your intention, that you don’t want anything to do with them – but in that case why talk to them at all?). In Authentic Relating with such people, it will sometimes be necessary to soften your impact, especially if they are also angry or upset, and/or return to empathy until they calm down sufficiently to be able to listen to you. Sometimes you will need to give up telling them everything, all the things they do which are offensive to you, in one sitting.
Nonetheless, consider this idea: that it may be better to say something to them rather than to say nothing at all, even if that something is quite gentle, a tiny fraction of your true feelings towards them. If you don’t say anything at all, you may well suffer for it afterwards, and therefore to be silent is being unkind towards yourself and unkind towards them (because you will continue to be upset with them, which they probably do not want, regardless of the terrible things they may be saying to you). They may really welcome an opportunity to clear the air with you, or they may be totally unaware of the negative impact they are having on you and be grateful to you for letting them know. It is very important, however, in such a case to use as full ownership language as you possibly can.
I return to this topic in the two sections below “Make Right, Not Wrong” and “Honor Yourself”.
8. Make Right, Not Wrong (Find People Right, Approve of them)
When you are reacting to someone in a negative way, and judging them wrong for how they are being, it can be helpful to take on the following perspective: people are the way they are for a reason, they are the product of their genes and of the environment that nurtured them (or not); and consequently it is certain that if you were born into their body and had the experiences they had, you would behave exactly the same.
This is sometimes referred to as “finding people right”, and is one of the most important skills that you could ever master, if you hope to be effective as a human change agent. One of the great paradoxes of human relationships is that people change a lot faster in the direction that you want (or that they want for themselves), when they are first accepted as they are.
Approving of other people does not mean that you will always agree with them or feel their behavior is justified. It means that you will attempt to find something to agree with, empathize or appreciate about them. This is not always easy, and in some cases you may find it impossible, but usually you will find that even a small effort in that direction will give huge dividends in dealing effectively with difficult people and interactions. At minimum, it should give you more peace of mind with regards to the situation, which holds the potential for increasing your mental clarity and designing an effective intervention, should one be necessary.
The reason that “finding people right” is so effective is that it reflects a fundamental reality of the human condition: that none of us owns the truth, or the whole truth, of what is best for the world, for other people, or even for ourselves. “Truth” in human relationships can only be found by agreement. Another way to say this is that “in relationship, everyone is right”. Taking that perspective will, in most cases, be a win for everyone, providing a fertile ground from which a positive conversation might emerge. Indeed, one of the reasons that Gandhi, Martin Luther King and other powerful world peace leaders were so effective is that they recognized the humanity of their opponents, even as they actively worked to unseat them and their ideas.
“That which we resist, persists” said Werner Erhard. “Resist not evil” said Jesus. Jesus offered that perspective even in matters where we might be certain that evil is present. Imagine how much more true that perspective will be, in the vast majority of cases in which we really cannot be certain of what is right and wrong, good or bad?
9. Be Impactable
“Being impactable” is an advanced form of empathy and is the essence of what transformative relationship is all about. The idea here is that when people share something sensitive about themselves, they are usually not interested so much in your thoughts or judgments about their experience, whether you think they are right or wrong to be feeling and thinking as they are. But they are, usually, very interested in your ability to get their experience and to be moved by it. And above anything else, they will likely be passionately interested in anything they say which you could apply creatively to yourself, something that could brighten your world or change something in you. It is a universal human longing to want to have an impact on other people.
Let me quote Sara Ness here:
Let yourself be affected by others’ experience. Empathize from your own world, remembering similar experiences or feelings in your past. Let yourself be touched by how they are showing up right now with you. Be so here that you could be destroyed by this connection – and over time, you will discover your own invincibility.
“Being Impactable”: Authentic Relating on the street
“Being Impactable” is even more effective in Authentic Relating, for the simple reason that people probably won’t expect it. They may be charmed and thrilled by the fact that you have the courage to tell them how they are affecting you.
For these reasons, you may want to double-up your positive impact statements in real life and with the people in your environment. To fail to communicate positive emotional impact towards someone when it is present, is both cruel and stupid, because you could make a real difference to someone by doing so, because you could make a new friend or ally, and because it will make you happier J.
10. Honor Yourself (Handling Conflict)
To “honor yourself” means to take care of yourself emotionally in your interactions with people. Specifically, it means that you do not have to do anything that doesn’t feel right to you, answer any question, accept anybody’s feedback, or be any particular way, regardless of what anyone says – even a group leader. You even have an option to walk out of a group (or hit the “close” button in an online group) – I have done it once or twice myself, and I have threatened to do it many other times!
Dropping out of a group should be considered a measure of last resort, hopefully to be done only after you have expressed your ambivalence about what is happening, or even rage, and haven’t felt heard in that; however it is always an option, and you should not judge yourself for leaving a group if you feel you have to do it, or judge anyone else for it either. Indeed in some cases it might be the responsible thing to do: better to leave the group and let yourself cool off, than to explode at them in your rage at how bad and wrong they are, or all the ways in which they are not getting your world or even putting you down.
(Note: leaving a group is controversial. What I am giving you here is my perspective on it, which may or may not be shared by others. It is very important for me personally to have choice which relationships are empowering to me and which ones are not, and not to engage with a group out of a sense of obligation. Of course if you are blowing up and leaving groups consistently, that is not a good thing and will have negative impact on people wanting to circle with you).
In practice, it is quite rare for people to leave a group in the middle. It is much more common for people to say nothing, and then feel mild to intense discomfort or anger for hours or days afterwards, and wish that they had said something. It is quite likely you will find most groups very nurturing and connecting, this is the nature of the practice and the power of coming together with connection intent. Nonetheless, conflicts will arise, and they can be very valuable to everyone. In many cases, a major conflict in a person’s life, or in a group, can be the cause of a deep shift and growth.
As such, you would be wise to value all conflict that comes up in a group, to practice empathy and all the attitudes and skills already covered. It is likely that you will find these attitudes and skills very valuable in other aspects of your life outside of Circling. And so, what better opportunity than to practice now in Circling, when you can probably count on at least a few people in the group to “have your back” and be making an effort to understand your experience and empathize with you?
Honor Yourself: Authentic Relating on the street
In Authentic Relating someone who is attacking you and (seemingly) holding no value to “commitment to connection”, it can be very powerful for you to stay in connection with them unilaterally. It can help them be seen in a way that they perhaps thought impossible (hence why they wanted to break the connection).
You can do this either in formal circles or else with strangers. Let me give an anecdote on the latter (from the blog of my friend Lisa Campion). This is black-belt level A/R and you may not be up for it. There is nothing wrong with walking away, either (maybe with a negative impact statement: “I don’t like how you are talking to me and I won’t participate in this”, or just “I am sorry, I can’t listen to this, I need to walk away”). You should not push yourself beyond what you have to give.
Case Study: Lisa’s story (an extraordinarily skillful example of “honor yourself”)
“The other day, I was in what could have been a parking lot rage incident. I was in the Target parking lot and I left my empty shopping cart near my car rather than take it back to the little corral. Mostly because I broke my foot and it’s in a walking cast and my foot was aching already. The cart corral suddenly looked like it was a long way away.
Then a gust of wind came along and blew the cart into a man’s very nice car. I watched it go feeling like –uh oh and ….ding.
Instantly he became a very angry dude. He ran over to me and was really yelling, how rude, what the hell was my problem, he was on a roll, all purple in the face. He stopped when he saw my foot in the air cast. I apologized but he kept right on going. I could feel that his anger was about something else and I was just the trigger, it was so obvious. The ding had opened up his anger closet, which was full and it all overflowed.
He was projecting this all over me. Of course it is annoying to have your car dinged by a shopping cart (It didn’t even leave a mark, truthfully) but his reaction was epic, it was like an 8 out of 10 when maybe the ding was worthy of a 2.
I got very grounded and opened my heart, just as if he was a client in my office. It was an experiment to see what would happen- so I trotted out my therapy voice and said, “Yeah dude, I am really sorry, I can see how mad you are. Anyone would be angry, I totally get it. My cart totally dinged your beautiful car.”
Angry Dude: “Yeah well- You should be more responsible and less of a selfish jerk blah blah…” He was off and running again.
Me: “Yes, you are right. Should have put that back where it was supposed to go. I hate it when people are selfish jerks. That sucks.”
Angry Dude looked less angry. He blinked a few times. “Yeah well. Next time you should. But maybe you didn’t cuz your foot is broken. I can see how maybe you didn’t want to walk all the way over there. I had a really tough day at work. My boss is a selfish jerk.”
Me: “Dude, that’s rough. I work for myself and sometimes I can be a jerk to myself so I know what it’s like having a jerky boss.”
Angry Dude was no longer angry. It did take him a second to figure that one out, but he sat down on the edge of my bumper and unloaded the trials and tribulations of his life. He was going through a divorce and missed his kids. His life was in a crappy, terrible place and he was feeling lost. I love these moments when I get a chance to do some parking lot therapy so I just listened. This does happen to me on a pretty regular basis and I actually enjoy connecting and listening to people. After a while I said to him that maybe it was a chance to reconstruct his life and what did he think he needed to do to reconnect with his kids and get support for himself? But mostly I just listened.
Eventually, he stood up and said he was glad I bumped into him. (He had a good sense of humor under all that rage!) We shared a handshake and then even a quick hug.”
[Thank you, Lisa. I must admit, that I feel moved every time I read this. I am in awe of you.]
11. Welcome Everything
The previous section “Honor yourself” describes the more extreme case of “Welcoming everything”, which is accepting that conflict will occasionally arise in a group, and as such it is better to welcome what is already present than to resist it (a strategy which is valuable in all human relationships, incidentally). In most cases, however, your reactions and feelings will be less dramatic than presented earlier: boredom, tensions in your body, mild irritation, slight confusion, or distracting thoughts such as “what am I doing here” or “rats, I forgot to take out the garbage” or “this is stupid, I would much rather be painting my nails right now”. To “welcome everything” means to accept whatever thoughts and feelings are arising in the moment as, perhaps, something valuable, something which carries the potential for insight or an interesting and transformative conversation.
Another way of saying this, is to consider the possibility that everything that is happening inside of you in relation to the group is “an excuse for intimacy”: meaning that you are in a process of self-discovery, and other-discovery, in a way that is quite mysterious and that all of your feelings, no matter how unrelated they may seem, are contributing to that. Furthermore, you can’t really avoid these feelings anyway, so you would be wise to surrender to them (see the final section “Surrender Gracefully”). For instance: you might imagine that you would be having more fun painting your nails, or washing dishes; and you may be right; but since you have chosen to spend an hour in a circling group, you may as well get as much out of the experience as you can.
This is the aspect of Circling that has being spoken of as “inter-subjective meditation”. In classical meditation, you are noticing thoughts and sensations and your internal reactions of attraction and aversion to these sensations, while attempting to not get over-attached or over-invested one way or the other. Ideally, in classical meditation you are taking the perspective that these thoughts and feelings are merely “interesting” – rather than good, bad, completely stupid or life-changing insights. In other words, you are “taking it all lightly”. In Circling, the invitation is to do the same: take it all lightly. Trust that whatever truth or falseness, enlightenment or stupidity, will be revealed to you at the right time. In the meantime, your job is merely to pay attention.
It can be frustrating to have to wait for clarity when things don’t make sense right away. But experience shows that events that didn’t connect up neatly while you were circling, still seem to have a capacity to teach you the lessons they contained, even days or weeks or months later. All you need in the moment is to trust in your self’s ability to record and process things in its own time and pace.
It is particularly important to understand and accept that when you are having a strong reaction to someone, either positive or negative, that ultimately it is all about you. Thus, while you might think that you are reacting to someone because of how they are being, and this may be “true” from an ordinary perspective, it would be equally true to say that you are reacting to someone because of something in you that is resonating with them, either positively or negatively. Taking that perspective will help you see all the people in your life as a gift to you, since they are helping you gain self-awareness and discrimination – no matter how stupid and irritating they may seem at times.
12. Slow Down
We live in a culture which generally values performance and achievement more than it values “being”, relatedness, or genuine aliveness and emotional connection. Many of us, including myself, carry this valuing of speed over connection into our Circling groups. We talk fast, process things fast, are driven to make our point, fill the space, communicate our deepest truth and get it all done as quickly as possible – even when, ironically, what is trying to “get done” here is connection and transformation, things which don’t respond well to time pressure. We may fear that if we miss the opportunity to self-express, right now, those few precious minutes of attention and air-time that we are offered will be wasted.
This fear of slowing down is actually not a rational fear, when our intention is connection and depth. Indeed, often the first thing that needs to happen to deepen a group conversation is simply to start taking our time. We can choose to appreciate the unfolding mystery of connection as it’s happening, more than our desire to fulfill our communication and “transformation” agenda, no matter how urgent or compelling it might seem to us.
So what does “slowing down” look like? It is generally very simple, such as talking more slowly, or not at all, while noticing body sensations or the quality of our connection to others. We slow down, essentially, in order to feel more. A lot of people have trouble feeling and talking at the same time. The solution in such cases is often to talk less, while still holding attention on the person who is being circled. Silence is not a bad thing.
In a group with a skilled facilitator you will probably, at some point, hear some direction such as: “pause there for a moment. I want to feel into this”, or “pause there, I don’t want to miss this moment”. This can be considered a gift: people are giving us feedback about a moment of truth or authentic connection which we would entirely miss, if we were to continue in the bulldozer action and relentless flow of our thoughts, the ceaseless internal processing that may dominate our life outside of Circling, and perhaps life in the 21st century in general.
To note, however, that having a communication or transformation agenda is not in itself a bad thing. Most of us do have some kind of agenda, a need of some kind, no matter how much we are, or pretend to be, all-accepting and open to everything and “spiritual”. There is actually a kind of unavoidable tension in Circling, and maybe in all human relationships, between: on the one hand, fulfilling our personal agendas; and on the other hand, being in the moment, in service to others, and “surrendering to ‘what is’ ”. We already spoke about this in the earlier section, “The Yin and the Yang of Circling”.
13. Surrender Gracefully
I conclude this section of best practices with perhaps the greatest and hardest skill of all: the art of graceful surrender.
To “surrender” means, in its best form, one of two things. The personal meaning of “surrender” is to accept the fact that we are a certain way and feel certain things, and to stop fighting with ourselves about that, to stop “the war of sub-personalities”. This could also be called “surrendering to the inevitable”, in that most of us have little or no control over our feelings (although, paradoxically, in the act of acceptance of all our feelings, no matter how crazy or “dysfunctional” we imagine them to be, they often transform into something else or recede into the background).
The second aspect of “surrender” is in relation to other people, and it simply means: Stop trying to change people or argue with them, and accept them as they are. You may even simply decide to do what they want you to do, for their sake, even though it may not be something you need or want for yourself.
Why would you do this? Because, as the saying goes, you may decide that it is more important for you to be happy than to be right. You may make a choice for the higher good.
Graceful (or true) surrender is distinct from “submission” or “appeasement” or even “sacrifice”. You are not giving in to demands which you may perceive as selfish and stupid, simply because other people have power over you, or because you want them to shut up and leave you alone. True surrender is voluntary. You are offering yourself in service. Graceful surrender is an act of love.
In practice, the difference between graceful surrender and appeasement will take some discernment. You may still be feeling reactive or upset towards the other person; but, ideally, your surrender should give you some inner peace and serenity. You will feel a sense of power and self-nurturing in the choice to surrender.
One of the most important acts of surrender that you can do has already been described: it is “finding people right”. It is quite ironic that finding people right is actually one of the toughest forms of surrender: ironic because it costs us nothing but our pride, the recognition that other people’s truth is just as valid to them, as our truth is to us; and hence our judgment of them as wrong has no reality to it. Often we are more attached to “being right” than we are attached to our money, our health, or even our life.
Well-done, grasshopper! You have now completed your “Authentic Relating basic training”. Practicing these principles will give you a leg-up in all of your human relationships, and also make you a happier person. Formal Circling groups are a (relatively) safe space in which to practice the skills of connection.
In the next Part 2 of this book, we circle back to cultural and developmental trauma, what makes this work so difficult (and so important).
And then, in Part 3 we return to problems in practical emotional communication.