What is a Yarning Circle?
A yarning circle is the practice of speaking and listening from the heart. The use of a ‘talking piece’ help to make it clear who is talking and who are listening. The student who holds the ‘talking piece’ speaks spontaneously from his/her own experience, is concise and to the point while the others listen with an open heart, without judgement or preconceived ideas.”
The students sit together in a circle and pass a “talking piece“ (an object used to identify the speaker) around. Each speaker speaks spontaneously, is concise and to the point and expresses his/her experience while the others listen with an open heart, without judgement or preconceived ideas.
- encourage deep and honest communication
- learn and practice the art of listening and talking from the heart
- trigger the students to express themselves
- explore factors contributing to conflicts
- share personal stories
- items for the decoration of the centre of the Council
- “talking piece” which could be a stick, a stone, a shell or anything that lies well in the hand
Process and Preparation
- What is the specific intention of this yarning circle (e.g. to hear what is bothering the students, to speak about a topic like Reconciliation, which stirs the emotions of the students, to find a solution for an ongoing conflict, to come to a solution etc.)?
- Preparation of the room: The centre of the circle is the focal-point of the group. Therefore, either objects that express the intention of the circle (e.g. personal items of students, objects that are related to the intention of the Yarning Circle) or beautiful spots (flowers, candles etc.) will raise its energy. The centre could be arranged by you or you can do it together with the students.
- Choose a “talking piece” (if you regularly plan to hold a Yarning Circle, students may take turns in bringing a talking piece to the classroom beforehand).
- Explain the rules for talking and listening:
- Speak from the heart (in what is present and authentic).
- Listen from the heart (pay attention to the others, without judgement or preconceived ideas).
- Be spontaneous (without planning or storing information).
- Be concise and to the point (speak the essence).
- Confidentiality: what has been said in the circle stays in the circle.
- During the Yarning Circle there will not be any comments on what others have said. Encourage students to be sensitive to time and to others.
“Take a breath and a quiet moment before you begin to speak”.
- The Yarning Circle starts. If there is only one lesson left, it is important to finish it 10 minutes before the clock rings in order to have enough time for the debriefing.
- Thank the students for their willingness to share their thoughts, ideas and feelings with the group and with you. Remove the items from the centre.
Please note: If a Yarning Circle is used regularly, students may start feeling more confident after some time and the Council works even better.
Reflection with the students / questions for debriefing
- Did you like to speak and listen from your heart?
- Was it easy/difficult for you to listen to others without judgement or preconceived ideas?
- Was there anything surprising for you?
- What are important/interesting things you have learned during the Yarning Circle?
Suggestions for adaptations and variations
Pre-activity: Suggestion for practising speaking and listening from the heart
Divide the group into two circles (an inside and an outside one, facing each other) and let the students practise the art of speaking and listening with open hearts in pairs.
Reference / original source of the method
This activity is based on “Council – The Art of Listening and Speaking from the Heart”
Further tips and resources
Council in Schools: Return To The Heart.m4V (The Ojaj Foundation, 8,46 min.)
More information on the website „The Council in Schools“:
Zimmerman Jack and Virginia Coyle: The Way of Council , Bramble Books, Las Vegas, 1996.
Pranis, Kay: The Little Book of Circle Processes: New/Old Approaches to Peacemaking, Good Books, Intercourse, PA, 2005
Goleman, Daniel: Emotional Intelligence, Bantam Books, New York, 1995
Annex: Introduction Council – The Art of Listening and Speaking from The Heart