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or The Circle

From the book
When Everyone’s a Volunteer
by Ivan Scheier

Background and Rules
Four or five people sit in a circle, preferably around a table or with some other writing surface available. Ordinarily, these would be people who do not know one another well, or at all. But the process also works with people who know each other pretty well (or think they do).

1. Each person talks about herself/himself for a few minutes, while all the others listen. Reassure people that private or confidential mate- rial is neither expected nor wanted. The hope is, however, that your participants will include something special or unusual about them- selves-an interest or hobby, a trip they've taken, something special that happened to them, etc. This could be something that even people they see frequently might not know.

2. After everyone has spoken, the group works on connections. Each person tries to complete the sentence:

"You ought to meet or be in touch with _______ for as many other people in the group as she or he can. The idea is to think of another person, not in the circle, who might have something to share and/or learn from this person, i.e., a "good contact," in terms of the special thing the person spoke about.

Try to identify the connection as clearly as you can: name, phone number, address.

The group as a whole tries to get at least one connection for every person in the circle, more than one if possible.

3. Once people have thus practiced being connectors, they should know a fair amount about each other. Now have each person put his or her name at the top of a piece of paper (see next page). Pass the sheets around the circle, asking each person to write one thing s/he likes about every other person in the circle on the sheet with that person's name. When done, there should be a list of 'affirmations" or compliments on each individual's sheet.

Don't sign your name to the compliment. You might even print it, to preserve anonymity. Writing compliments down and giving them anonymously might make it easier and less embarrassing for people to give compliments, especially when they barely know the complimentee.


Name ___________________________________________

We like the following things about you:







 With five people in the circle, we would end up with four affirmation comments under each name. You must write a nice thing about every other person in the circle. And do try to avoid left-handed compliments such as: "You're looking so much better than you did last week," or "I really like the way you comb your hair over your bald spot," or "You were really wise to quit Weight-Watchers. It hardly ever works anyhow."

4. Now, one other person (say the person to your right) reads aloud all the compliments which have been paid you. We go around the circle until everyone's compliments have been read aloud to them, by another person in the circle. Take your time. Enjoy.

Comments and Discussion
The facilitator should be careful not to anticipate in the instructions to participants. That is, don't forewarn people that the connections and affirmation phases are coming, until it is actually time to begin them.

The first discussion point is that successful networking depends on linkage thinking. Instead of seeing himself/herself as always needing to be in the helping equation either as giver or taker, the connector is skilled and sensitive in identifying mutually beneficial linkages between two or more other people. This is a kind of matchmaking (though not usually in the romantic sense) which believes we can connect people to a lot more helping than we can provide for them directly.

The second point for discussion is that networks are more likely to be successful when people identify and emphasize one another's strengths rather than weaknesses. Accent the positive. When you're oriented to seeing strengths in others, you'll more frequently find them, and encourage them.

Allow at least 30 to 45 minutes. There's no reason why you can't have a number of circles in a room together, joining forces for the discussion phase.

When Everyone's a Volunteer   by Ivan Scheier is available for purchase from Energize.