Group Dynamics: Sitting in Circle

If you’ve spent any time in coaching, meditation, education, mediation, or consulting you may have heard the phrase or performed the activity of sitting in circle.

At its simplest, a group comes together to share ideas and experiences on a particular topic. And they do so sitting in a circle.

By sitting in circle we are inferring this is a safe space. Somewhere we can feel open and comfortable. A place where everyone’s voices can be heard.

But we’ve got to get the environment right to make it work.

This starts with the circle itself – more specifically, its size.

Just as the potential connections in a network increase exponentially as more nodes are added, the dynamics of the circle look and feel completely different depending on its size.

Add in the variable and unpredictable nature of humans and their group dynamics and the circle can become unwieldy, ineffective, or even volatile.

Some people will feel hugely overstimulated facing and being viewed by 10, 20 or 30 people.

Others may want to pull the attention towards themselves.

One or two can feel compelled to provoke, push, or pull at the container that’s been created.

A few may nervously hide away, only re-emerging when they feel it safe to do so.

And some might contemptuously opt out of proceedings completely.

Sitting in Circle can be a hugely powerful way to bring a group of people together. But group dynamics are a crucial part of designing an experience or environment. If we fail to pay attention to why, how and what we’re building, our intention to better connect a group of humans can backfire spectacularly. 

And, like it or not, size matters.

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