This is Part 2 of a series called: “How to Give Great Circle.” It’s for those of you who’ve Circled before and want to learn some tools to add to your Circling Toolkit.

If you haven’t already read Part 1, I highly recommend you do so here.

And a reminder, these are just recommendations. There is no right and wrong way to Circle.

In Part 1, I talked about how to powerfully speak about Self, “I.” In this part, I’ll get into talking about Other, “You.”


One of our explicit agreements at Circling Nights is that we will Own Our Experience. Owning our experience means speaking in a way that is inarguable. If I say, “Jason, you made me mad,” – I’m not owning my experience, because what I said was arguable. Jason could come back with: “No, it was what Korenna said that made you mad.”

So instead, I can own my experience by saying: “Jason, I’m upset at what you just said.” Or even just: “I’m really pissed off right now.”

Feel the difference?

I think of speaking in a way that’s inarguable as “cleaner” – because it respects boundaries and acknowledges our own role and responsibility in our experience. It doesn’t have the “stickiness” of making a judgment about another while hiding the fact that it’s a judgment.

(Also, if I don’t own my experience, it’s much harder to consciously work with my experience. Which, as someone who values self-awareness and development, is very important to me.)

Please know, I’m not saying projections or emotional statements such as “You wounded me!” are bad, or wrong. That’s not my point; that’s one way to express. But if at Circling one of your intentions is to become more self-aware, more whole, or to deeply connect with others… I recommend try something else.

Now, we project and imagine stuff about people all the time, and it can be very valuable (and sometimes even fun!) to bring that stuff up in Circling. Also, providing reflections to a Circlee is a great service and can be extremely powerful.

So what ARE some “cleaner” ways to speak in the second person, “You,” during Circling?

One Way: Use Specific Observations

In Non-Violent Communication, Marshall Rosenberg makes a distinction between an observation and a judgment. An observation is something specific and observable. For example: “You crossed your arms,” is an observation. Or: “You said ‘This always happens.’” Those are both observations.

On the other hand: “You’re a nice person,” is a judgment. Another example of a judgment is: “You’re closed down.” A person could agree or disagree with those statements, but the point is they’re judgments, not observations.

Using observations is a great way to name things we’re noticing about the Circlee.

As infants, we relied on our caregivers to help regulate us, in part by mirroring. During Circling, one way to provide these soothing reflections is through specific observations. This can be very impactful during a circle and can also help the Circlee notice things about themselves they may have been completely unaware of.

Another Option: Soften Your Projections With “You seem…”

Saying “You seem…” is a way to present our stories about others a little more softly. There is some softness with the word “seem” because it is not as definitive as “are.”

Let’s try something. Notice what you feel when you read this: “You are nervous.” Now notice what you feel when you read this: “You seem nervous.” Do you have a different response to those statements?

Ultimately, we can’t know someone else’s subjective experience, so “seem” allows a little wiggle room for the Circlee to weigh in on our statement.

Follow “You seem…” with a Question

If we have projected onto the Circlee (perhaps with “You seem…”), a great way to follow is with a question – to check in with the person about whether it’s true. Such as: “Does that fit?” or “Is that right?” or “Does that land?”

This gives the Circlee an opportunity to share whether or not our projection feels true to them, share what it’s like to hear that, or clarify how they do see things.

For example: “You seem really annoyed right now, is that right?” Maybe the Circlee would respond with: “No, actually, I’m nervous.”

Another example: “You seem like you want the attention right now but feel a little guilty about it. Does that fit?” Maybe the Circlee agrees in that example.

Another Option: When You Do Have a Judgment, Own It

As Byron Katie says: the mind judges, that’s what it does. So why not share that judgment, but in a way that acknowledges that it is YOUR judgment, not an objective truth. We can experience wonderful intimacy through sharing our thoughts and judgments about each other – when we’re not attached to whether or not those thoughts are actually true.

Here are some handy sentence stems that are great for owning our judgments:

  • What I’m making up is you…
  • My story about you is…
  • I’m imagining you…
  • I had the thought that …
  • My projection is that you…

A few examples; “What I’m making up is that you’re very popular and have tons of friends.” Or: “I’m imagining you don’t have a lot of time to yourself.” Or: “My projection is that you really have your life together.” Or maybe: “My story about you is you think you’re smarter than me.”

Own your judgment in Circle and see what happens.

Own Your Desire

As we sit in circle, we can experience many thoughts and emotions. Perhaps someone shares vulnerably about some problem they’re having in their life. And maybe when we hear that, we feel compassion or sadness, and we want to share some advice or try to “fix it” for the person.

For many, it can be very uncomfortable to listen to someone talk about some difficulty in their life, or even more difficult to witness them while they fully feel some intense emotion.

First, I’ll remind us that at Authentic LA – Circling is not coaching. We’re being with each other and noticing what arises.

Second, we’re not trying to “fix” anything – because nothing is broken.

That said, we can own our desires and share them as a way to get closer with one another.

Here are some good sentence stems to do just that:

  • My wish for you is…
  • What I’m wanting for you is…
  • I had the thought: “I wish you would…”
  • I’m wanting you to…
  • I’m really wanting to help you in some way.

So practice being vulnerable by owning your desire.

Share Impact With This Sentence Stem: “When you said or did _____, I felt ____.”

We call this sharing impact. It’s is a simple, powerful way to communicate how we’re affected by others.

Here are some examples. “When you said you didn’t think you’d ever find someone, I felt really sad.” “When you laughed and snorted, I loved that – I was so amused.” “When you said you think you’re beautiful, I thought: ‘I like this chick.’”

There is something magical about sharing impact. Connected language can connect us.

Be Radically Honest… While Owning Your Experience

In his seminal book, Radical Honesty, Brad Blanton preaches of the freedom and intimacy we can experience when we practice radical honesty. But Radical Honesty does not mean blurting out: “You’re an idiot!” Radical honesty is about sharing OUR experience. Instead, one could say: “I’m so angry right now!”

During Circling, if we’re experiencing some unpleasant feelings like boredom, annoyance, or anger – it can sometimes be scary to share that. Many of us have had years hiding those so-called “negative” emotions, so revealing them can sometimes be a stretch to our nervous systems.

But take a breath, and give it a try.

We do encourage radical honesty – with the reminder to own your experience.

I hope you enjoyed this post. I enjoyed writing it (and also experienced restlessness sitting at my desk!). Please come to Circling and let me know if you tried any of these ideas and how that went!

Stay tuned for Part Three of this series, where I’ll share some thoughts on Asking Questions…

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