A listening circle can provide another way for communities to generate a meaningful community dialogue about criminal justice issues and can be used to emerge the cost of prison phone calls in your community.
Guide for Hosting a Listening Circle
Listening circles can be used after a documentary film screening, a spoken-word performance, or on their own.
Listening Circle Description
A listening circle is a small group of people sitting in a circle, telling and listening to stories or remembrances, led by a listening circle facilitator. Each listening circle is different according to its purpose.
What is a Story?
A story is a personal memory about something that happened to you or someone you know, or a memory about something you or someone you know did. Humans are the storytelling animals. We tell each other stories every day that have characters, action, plot, and narrative, but we usually just don’t think of what we share with others as having those components.
What is Not a Story?
A story is not a lecture, debate, project description, or mission statement, nor an intellectualization or argument.
Listening Circles Do:
Consist of from 5 to 20 people sitting on individual chairs in a circle (without holding onto notepads, pocketbooks, etc.) in such a manner that each participant has a good view of every other participant
• Have a facilitator who begins, facilitates, and ends the circle • Have a stated time period in which the listening circle will take place
• Have a purpose articulated by the facilitator and agreed to by the participants
• Allow for silences, which can be an important way to honor a story
• Emphasize as much listening as telling
Listening Circles Don’t:
• Give importance to one story over another, one type of story over another, or one person in the group over another
• Get recorded or videotaped without the participants’ permission
• Get used for any type of therapy
Listening Circle Rules:
There is only one listening circle facilitator.
• There are no observers—only participants. (The listening circle facilitator is also a participant, and
must tell his or her story as well.)
• Participants speak only when it is their turn.
• When it is his or her turn, the participant may decide to pass.
• Participants and the facilitator never argue with nor debate another participant’s story.
• Participants and the facilitator never comment on another participant’s story other than to say
something like, “That story reminds me of . . ..”
• There is no cross-talk (talking out-of-turn) in a listening circle.
Listening Circle Rules:
• Introduces herself or himself, describes the circle’s purpose and theme, tells when the circle will end, and asks each member to pace the length of their stories to the time available for each individual.
• Describes the rules of the listening circle and answers participants’ questions about the rules.
• Emphasizes the idea that listening to the stories of others is as important as telling your own.
• Discourages participants from thinking too much about what they will say when it is their turn,
assuring them they can pass if they have nothing to say.
• Begins the circle with a story that sets the proper tone for the purpose and theme of the circle, or
states the theme and asks who in the circle would like to tell the first story.
• Goes around the circle clockwise or counterclockwise, with each person telling or passing when it
is their turn.
• Before ending the listening circle, asks if people who have passed would now like to speak.
• Ends on time.
• Leaves time for participants to talk informally to each other when the listening circle is over.
If you record your circle, please share some of your stories with the Campaign for Prison Phone Justice by calling our answering machine anytime at 877-518-0606. Or call in to share your reflections on the listening circle.
Stories can also be mailed to:
|Campaign for Prison Phone Justice
P.O. Box 2420, West Brattleboro, VT 05303