In CircleCulture, We clear the air for a fresh start.
Four essential tools or procedures are used for clearing the emotional life within a group and between individuals in CircleCulture. We will explore two – Needs and Requests and Unclear Feelings – below. These are used throughout meetings or among people as needed. We make a special point to Clear the Air before departing Circle. It is unhelpful to take these feelings away with us, unchecked. It’s a new paradigm, to openly Clear the Air. It requires safety and vulnerability, and it builds clarity and trust between us. We Clear the Air and start fresh next time.
Needs and Requests
We all have needs, but if you’re like me, you did not learn to notice or articulate your needs when you were young. This is one reason why so many people have trouble asking for help when they need it. Our society upholds an image of the rugged individual, who is expected to pull themselves up by their boot straps and take on all life’s challenges alone. And succeed – alone.
The essence of Needs and Requests is to observe our own needs, speak up when they are not being met, and request support to meet them. We’ll consider later another layer of making Requests that comes into play when the new Circle matures a bit and we are engaged in personal work and encounter the need for help to develop new habits or lifestyle that reflect self-care, self-respect, and our determination to be true to ourselves and our values.
Here’s how we start to Clear the Air:
Does anyone have any ___?
Straightforward Requests often look like:
“My Request is for the whole Circle; may I? I don’t hear well. I will listen carefully to you and read your lips, too; but if I can’t hear I’ll gesture cupping my ears to let you know. Or I’ll ask you to speak up. I’d appreciate your help.”
“My Request is for the whole Circle; can you listen to me now? I need to rebuild my habit for a morning walk, as I used to do daily. Will anyone join me? A lot more fun to walk together, and that will help me be accountable to myself. No promises needed.”
“I have a Request for the Circle; may I proceed? I want a small garden plot, and it’s not available at my apartment building. Do you have a small area in your garden I might plant? I’d love to get my hands in the dirt and to help you with your gardening, too.”
When your Circle member makes a Request, search yourself closely before you offer your help. This only works when we say and do what we feel is genuine. You may make a small offer to start. You want this to work for both and all of you. Often an exchange is discovered.
If you noticed anything that happened that left you feeling curious or uncertain, here’s the place to state that and request clarity. (Unclear Feelings are more about feelings you think you are noticing in another person.)
For example, in a conversation before Circle met, Gloria gave Eleanor a lot of appreciation. She told her she was sweet and had a very big heart. Eleanor responded by saying, “I’m glad you can see that…” But right then, in that moment, Gloria looked away, down and to the right, and tears seemed to come to her eyes. Eleanor became curious and asked Gloria about it.
She used the format, stating:
“Gloria, I have an unclear feeling about something that happened between us right before Circle, can I ask you about it?”
She waited for Gloria to give permission. When Gloria said she felt that she could hear about it, Eleanor then told her what she thought she observed and asked what might have been going on.
Gloria told Eleanor that there was something about her that made her feel she’d found the good mother she realized she had never had and always longed for…but she had, up until that time, suppressed her awareness of those feelings and needs. During their interaction Gloria got in touch with the intensity of that longing…expressed through her tears, as well as noticing her shame and fear attached to the longing…hence the looking away.
Needless to say, this exchange was a powerful experience for Eleanor, Gloria and all, as the rest of the Circle looked on in silence, respectful attention and support. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house!
In the format we use here, answers are actively encouraged. The effects can be powerful. This process encourages understanding between people, reduces unwarranted assumptions as well as uncertainty. After Clearing the Air, we complete Circle by expressing Appreciation.
What do you think would have happened if instead of checking out her Unclear Feeling, Eleanor kept it to herself, thinking she “knew” what Gloria was “really” thinking and feeling?