Circling invites us to imagine those we’re engaging with to be in the geometry of a circle, each with a place and role and unique position. Circling brings an attitude of inclusion (the circle can expand to fit more participants) and of co-creating in connection with one another (everyone can see everyone else) without hierarchy.

  • A circle has a different kind of power – power WITH – than a traditional pyramid hierarchy (power OVER).
  • Circling encourages facilitation (making things easier) as its governance and where roles are selected and accepted based on skills, resourcefulness, and willingness rather than a structured or-chart.
  • By their inclusive geometry, circles encourage co-creating with more heartistry and reduced status-seeking and maneuvering for position.

Letting Go of Monkey Mindset

After 60 million years of the dominance hierarchy being the way that we primates live, we are encouraged by freedom-loving humans who are putting more evolutionary energy into being inclusive co-creators.

Monkey and ape societies function based on dominance. And whether we like it (or are aware of it) or not, our primate brain determines our relative status long before we’ve “thought about it.”

But status signals are deceiving. Is the taller/bigger person the dominant? Or the one with more money? But, isn’t it that they are driving the hot car, with the fashionable clothes, and the big house? Are not THOSE the things that truly MATTER?!??!

Watching ads, you’d think so. Advertisers learned long ago to trigger and to play to our desire not to be low status and to relate the good things in life to having more status than others.

This does not lead to us all thriving.

Yes, it’s brought wealth and astounding comforts and power to those that play the Status Game well… and pass those positions along to their children.

The reason we must address this here, as we explore circling, is that we will need to consciously be aware of those who are self-suppressing their creativity and power because they perceive they are of lower status.

We are primates after all. Status play is endemic to our existence. Sex, money, power… how do we find new orientations that better serve us all.

Research has shown how cooperation benefits everyone more than dominance. Circling is one way we start this.

We can look for ways that contributors can be recognized for their unique service… and see all circle members as contributors! We can actively let go of the monkey mindset, adapt as we humans are so capable, and continue to take inspired action towards a healthier ecosystem.

Useful Questions

  • What happens to my sense of belonging if I imagine we’re in a circle here, all with a place and valuable role?
  • Even though the layout here is not a circle (for example, a Zoom call gallery), what if I take a moment and imagine we’re physically in a circle together and can all see each other?
  • Am I trying to put myself “above” anyone here? Am I holding onto status when being a powerful co-creator with others could lead to much better results (and emotional rewards, too)?
  • How have a felt when talked “down to” by someone at the front of the class, head of the table, or upon the stage?
  • How might I actively support others feeling a part of our circle right now? Giving attentive presence? Affirmation? Amplifying softer voices? Making sure there’s space for everyone to contribute?


Related Concepts

Co-Creating, Student-Teacher, Awareness, Hold Space

Contributors: @Rick

We invite you to share your experiences and wisdom:

  • Life examples where this concept has played a role
  • Other useful questions
  • Links to audios, videos, books, and courses that add to our shared understanding of this concept
  • Memes, quotes, and inspiring images

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As a relationship anarchist, this concept of a circle / non-hierarchy is very important to me in my personal relationships. In other words, the status/importance of a relationship to me is not dependent on whether external society has placed its stamp of approval on it (ex: blood family or sexual/romantic partner).

But I find it easy to slip into hierarchical thinking about work relationships. When I “report” to someone or someone “reports” to me, I tend to think of people being better or more/less important than each other. While there may be differing layers of responsibility, each person’s work IS important. Skill and salaries might be different, but that doesn’t make one employee less/more than another. (Look at all the cleaners, janitors, grocery store clerks, etc. that we’ve relied on so heavily in the pandemic.)


I’ve encouraged anyone who will listen to approach “employment” like you’re a Self-Employed Consultant or CEO of Me, Myself, & I, Inc.

Why? Well, I know if someone has never worked as a consultant it doesn’t make as much sense… but since I have, it says that I am here under an Agreement, and there are people here that will be making decisions – sometimes me, too. There’s a mix of skills, a shared intention (or at least one I am being paid to pursue), and at the end of the day…

We’re all self-sovereign. We’re all choosing. We’re building real skills (or not), finding work that meets needs in return for a compensation package, and it’s not “forever.” Who knows who will be the “fellow CEO” I shall consult and co-create with next!

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