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  • Writer's pictureStephen

Powerful Agreements


I recently chatted with a few friends about the ways it seems like we can feel the tensions in the air right now. People having such strong differences of opinion about so many topics, but everyone feeling like it's their right to express their views and opinions without any type of restraint or hindrance.

I also attended a virtual conversation between a Palestinian individual and a Jewish individual, both of whom are working to lead organizations working for peace in the Middle East. Going into it, I wondered how much tension there would be and if the conversation would unfold with any hostility because of it. Thankfully, people were very respectful and actually engaged with a great deal of compassion and empathy. It was a very powerful conversation!


I think part of the reason it went so well was because the hosts of the conversation set the stage with some powerful agreements at the beginning. After reaching out to the organizers, they kindly shared the source of those agreements with me as being from Parker Palmer and his organization, the Center for Courage and Renewal. They actually call them the Circle of Trust Touchstones.


I was so impressed with the agreements and saw so many places where they could be applied, I want to share them with you here in a slightly edited version. I think you will see the power of these agreements and immediately begin to see places where they may be applied in your life and relationships.


Give and receive welcome. People learn best in hospitable spaces. In this circle we support each other's learning by giving and receiving hospitality. What is offered in the circle is by invitation, not demand. This is not a "share or die " event! Do whatever your soul calls for, and know that you do it with our support. Your soul knows your needs better than we do. No fixing, saving, advising or correcting. This is one of the hardest guidelines for those of us who like to "help." But it is vital to welcoming the soul, to making space for the inner teacher. Learn to respond to others with honest, open questions... instead of counsel or corrections. With such questions, we help "hear each other into deeper speech." Be present as fully as possible. Be here with your doubts, fears and failings as well as your convictions, joys and successes, your listening as well as your speaking. Speak your truth in ways that respect other people's truth. Our views of reality may differ, but speaking one's truth in a Circle of Trust does not mean interpreting, correcting or debating what others say. Speak from your center to the center of the circle, using "I" statements, trusting people to do their own sifting and winnowing. When the going gets rough, turn to wonder. If you feel judgmental, or defensive, ask yourself, "I wonder what brought them to this belief?" "I wonder what they're feeling right now?" "I wonder what my reaction teaches me about myself?" Set aside judgment to listen to others—and to yourself-more deeply. Trust and learn from the silence. Silence is a gift in our noisy world, and a way of knowing in itself. Treat silence as a member of the group. After someone has spoken, take time to reflect without immediately filling the space with words. Attend to your own inner teacher. We learn from others, of course. But as we explore poems, stories, questions and silence in a Circle of Trust, we have a special opportunity to learn from within. So pay close attention to your own reactions and responses, to your most important teacher. Observe deep confidentiality. A Circle of Trust depends on knowing that whatever we say will remain with the people to whom we choose to say it - whether in small groups or in the large circle and will never be passed on to others without our explicit permission.

Which of these ideas resonates the most with you today? What are some ways you could apply these practices? If you're serving in a leadership role, how might these help you in developing your team?

Here's to embracing these agreements this week!

Be Well, Stephen

Center was created to support individuals and teams so they can live from their Purposeful Center. We specialize in professional coaching and leadership development and we’d love to support you! Click on our Services page to book a free consultation.

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