The Pleasure Principle
A SPEAKING CIRCLE is a small group that supports the development of Relational Presence with listeners to create ease and impact in communication. With usually 5 - 10 participants, sessions offer an innovative and natural approach to self-expression: being yourself, being present with your listeners one person at a time, and receiving appreciative acceptance for who you are.
The Facilitator opens by modeling and discussing Relational Presence, laying out the guidelines and answering questions. Each person gets a chance to be in front of the group for three minutes to be the center of attention and "check in." Silence is fine since there is no priority on speaking. The primary instruction is simply to be in Relational Presence one listener at a time, through soft, neutral eyes. Then, each person has a longer turn (usually 5 or 7 minutes) to follow any thread or theme, or remain silent, with the priority always on Relational Presence with one person at a time. This turn is followed by positive feedback (essence appreciation) led by the Facilitator. This appreciation, along with the two turns, is recorded on a personal videotape given to the participant for private viewing.
Relational Presence simply means being open to connection through a neutral gaze, and with no agenda, or even a need for words. It is the pre-condition for communion; just being together with no judgment, no demands, no expectations, nothing to do, nowhere to go.
Effective communication is a two-way process. Full presence listening is at the basis of authentic speaking. When you listen with easy attention, and your only agenda is to see the best in the other person, you begin to experience others differently, without the usual judgments. Listening with full, non-critical availability creates genuine connection naturally. And when you listen to the silence as well as to the words, you allow others to find their own essential presence and to share it.
Most hear about SPEAKING CIRCLES from a friend or associate who has received great benefits from participating. Some attend an introductory presentation that piques their interest. Others are inspired by our website or the book, Be Heard Now!. Usually the incentive is to become more comfortable, confident and effective in front of groups for
Anxiety in front of groups can be masked with technique and exacting preparation, but such attention to performance gets in the way of the development of natural authenticity with listeners. The way to move through stage fright effectively is to develop the capacity to simply be with one person at a time, always. When one invites connection in this way, you stay in touch with your expertise and receive the attention and appreciation of the group, allowing the fear to fall away.
The emphasis on being with one person at a time, allowing natural silence, and listening without judgment, relieves the pressure to perform. As a result, the nature of a newcomer's perspective on "public speaking" may shift dramatically from impossible to very possible. Or from a chore to a joy. They can quickly move past fear of being the center of attention to discover the gift of receiving support from an audience. It becomes as easy and pleasant to speak to a group as to a close friend.
Experienced speakers can express themselves with more ease, authenticity, and passion when they learn the key to masterful, magnetic presence. They discover the natural way to establish a warm connection with any audience. They find that when they are completely genuine, they inspire and motivate others, and become energized rather than drained by speaking opportunities.
Other benefits include: greater presence, connection and confidence in all areas of life, increased capacity to listen fully and speak authentically, healing through being fully seen and heard, and an opportunity to connect with your unique inner voice, speak from the heart, and listen deeply.
After moving through blocks to full and spontaneous communication, people return for the pleasure of being with a group of supportive listeners, to explore their creative self-expression, and to continue strengthening their capacity to create connection and speak effectively through Relational Presence with individuals and groups outside of SPEAKING CIRCLES.
You don't. Just come as you are. Some participants come with a sense of where they may start, but that often changes as the session progresses.
"Advice," "helpful criticism," and "the honest truth" make up the "friendly fire" that stifles authentic expression in its vulnerable stages. Participants in SPEAKING CIRCLES make quantum leaps in confidence when they receive generous appreciation for the positive impact they have on others. When they watch their videotape privately, they can see for themselves what they might want to change. When shame is eliminated from the learning process, progress is rapid and easy.
There is no critical feedback in a basic SPEAKING CIRCLE, nor is there coaching on content until our advanced programs. Relationship with the audience is the initial priority here while performance technique and content are the priority in Toastmasters. Many people enjoy combining both approaches.
After practicing being with an audience without agenda in SPEAKING CIRCLES, you will be ready to apply Relational Presence to intentional content such as delivering a talk, facilitating a training, or promoting your business. SPEAKING CIRCLES INTERNATIONAL offers several intermediate and advanced programs; see our Programs page for more details.