How to Create Your Own Virtual Support Circle
We need each other. We always have, but now in the times of lockdown our need for support and camaraderie is probably more important than ever. If you’ve never been a part of an intentional circle or support group of some kind, you are in for a treat.
What makes circles so powerful? Part of it is the authentic humanity that emerges and the fellowship that grows over time. Circle participants report that as a result they feel permission to ‘be more themselves’, take more personal risks that help them to grow, and feel less alone.
Because circles are deliberately created around a specific set of shared values, desired outcomes and interests, we gift ourselves a specially curated and chosen ‘family’ or ‘tribe’ of people. From a brain-behavioral point of view, our tribe strongly influences (positively or negatively depending on its values) our resilience, growth and transformation.
Additionally, as a circle congeals over time, a really cool ‘collective intelligence’ starts form, through which its members can access a deeper wisdom and a greater sense of wellbeing and trust.
Creating your own circle arms you and its members to be who we want to be during these challenging times. Do you yearn for emotional support? Or perhaps you want to ground yourself in contemplative and meditation practices. Do you want inspiration in creativity? Or a wine tasting and recipes? Conscious couples support? Circles can be made from endless possibilities.
Here are a few guidelines to get you started:
- Determine your circle theme — think about the ‘why’ of your group. Include its values, goals, and guidelines.
- How many — six to twelve members seems to be the magic number.
- Hand select your members — as the circle coordinator you want to invite people in to your circle whom you know will support and resonate with the circle’s ‘why’ and gel well with the other cohorts. This part is important. A circle is only as good and can only travel as far or as deep as its lowest ‘performing’ individual. So make sure you invite people who are good listeners, keen contributors and emotionally mature.
- Meet regularly — weekly, twice monthly, however you do it the rhythm and the routine help create momentum
- Know your tools — there are so many platforms to choose from.
- Safety is the secret sauce — confidentiality is essential in circles that draw upon people’s vulnerable disclosures. Ensure that everyone can be heard equally, there are no ‘bad ideas’, and a general sense of respect will be maintained.
- Start with a check-in — check-ins helps to accomplish a number of things. First, they give cohorts an opportunity to context-switch from what they were doing to what they are doing now. Additionally, it provides an opportunity to share whatever is important or on their mind with the group so they can fully arrive and be present. It also allows all the circle members to know where each person is ‘at’, so we don’t make up stories about them.
- No FRAPPING — Fixing, Rescuing, Advising, Protecting, Pleasing. Circles are for supporting, growing, enjoying, deepening and sharing.
- Questions are more powerful than answers — when cohorts ask good, powerful and open questions to each other, each person finds their own wisdom solutions to challenges. Here are some formats you can draw from: Clearness Committee: Invented by the Quakers and adapted by the Center for Courage & Renewal, and Honest and Open Questions.
- Be present — mute your mic when you are not speaking, be present during the duration of the circle call, i.e. not eating (unless that’s part of the circle!), not answering your cell or dealing with the kids. Be there.
- Bring forth a question, challenge or issue as a main topic — this prevents the time from being a free for all and a waste of time.
- Turn toward the difficult — be brave, challenge yourselves, lean into the trust that is growing, discuss the undiscussables.
- Be good circle citizens — show up, be present, be non-judgmental, use everything for your growth, be authentic and be kind.
My hope is that we see a blossoming of circles all around the world right now. People gathering intentionally, across time and space, with no limits to the innovative ways that they belong together. I hope this provides you with a starting point to be a part of the growing circle movement.