We noticed something at a recent retreat as we gathered around the campfire, marshmallows roasting, conversation flowing. That is, we often find ourselves in circles.
circles are simple
While it may seem granular to outline the qualities of a circle over, say, a square or rectangle, the differences feel marked. Yes, they’re physical. But more important, circles are symbolic. That got us wondering: What does a circle of friends look like?
For starters, you can see all the people around you. No one’s hidden in a corner or on the edge. You’re usually comfortable. Perhaps people are sitting on a mix of couches and chairs, around a table, or on a picnic blanket. Circles invite people to spend a good chunk of time without an agenda. Time feels loose; maybe you disperse when the sun goes down, but you aren’t really focused on an end. And, finally, there are just enough people—three to six seems about right.
why does it work?
A quality of welcomeness fills the air when you sit in a circle. It’s like an unspoken bond among those in the ring, a feeling of belonging and inclusion. Each person helps form the whole, and we are held by the people surrounding us. We feel relaxed and easy. A lightness opens us to unexpected conversations that have time to meander around and around, or even bounce from person to person. The circle is dynamic; there’s no beginning and no end. Like it, the conversation can go anywhere and include anyone.
The next time you’re in a small group, at a barbecue or on the beach, try it for yourself. Suggest a circle. Don’t be afraid to pull chairs back a bit so others can join. As you do, consider what you’re usually rushing off to. Can it wait? Sure! Phone off (and away), go on—settle down and dive into the conversation. Feel the gravitational pull. Kids at sleepovers naturally cluster their pillows in the center, their sleeping bags splayed outward like rays of sunshine. And for good reason. You’ll see.