by Joel Hines

Story Circles in your house, for your tribe.

– a Simple and powerful technique to transform dialogue and Communication in the home

I distinctly remember sitting at the dinner table with my wife and 7-year-old son sharing a meal and desperately wanting know what was going on in my boy’s world.  As many parents do, I opened with a line of questioning like “Hey, how was school today?” only to receive the response: “Good”. Me: “So what sort of things did you get up to?” Response: “Stuff!”

I’m sure I‘m not alone in this experience and that a similar conversation is had in many homes and cars around the country.  I had recently completed some training in the use of Circles as a medium through which to get kids at school to talk through any issues that they may be facing.  A thought came to me: How about I try this in the home environment?

I wasn’t sure what to expect – it could’ve been resistance, silence, but I was pleasantly surprised

So a few days later, dinner time came around and I set the scene and said, “Let’s all share the two greatest things that happened today and something we could have done better. I’ll go first. We’ll use this pepper grinder as a talking stick, so only the person holding the pepper grinder is allowed to talk and the others have to just listen.”  Well, I went ahead and shared some things about my day, my wife followed suit and then it came to my son’s turn.  I wasn’t sure what to expect – it could’ve been resistance, silence or the old “Oh Dad!” But I was pleasantly surprised to hear that he had learnt a new word in Spanish, had conquered the balance beam during lunchtime, and had spoken a bit meanly to one of the girls in his class!  

It was a pivotal moment in our relationship as a family. We were able to create a safe space for authentic sharing of stories within our family, in place of the one-sided Twenty Questions.  Since that time we have used this process to not only hear about each other’s day but also to celebrate and share with each other personal successes and honour, and give thanks to one another for what we bring to our family unit.

It was a pivotal moment in our relationship as a family

People have been gathering in circles to share stories in different cultures around the world for 30,000–300,000 years. Circles are about creating and holding a safe space for honest and authentic sharing to occur. By ‘safe space’ and ‘authentic sharing’, we mean that people feel safe to reveal, be vulnerable, share truthfully without fear of judgement and be seen for who they truly are, not who they feel they need to or should be.

Circles can be used in many different environments and settings as a platform for communication.  Whether it be for telling stories, creating a plan or a vision for the future or for celebrating one another’s strengths, they provide the ideal structure to connect and deepen our relationships, and transform and evolve previous ineffective methods of communication.

Here are some tips for implementing Circles in your home:

  • Use a ‘talking stick’ – Only the person with the talking object can talk
  • Use open-ended questions that invite more sharing – e.g. Tell me a story of when …?
  • Speak your own truth – Use ‘I’ statements, and don’t generalise, lecture or philosophise
  • Avoid stepping in – No jokes, questions or rescuing


Brought to you by Brighton Grammar School

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Joel Hines works with the Rites of Passage Institute, a social enterprise helping people discover their passion and purpose, learn critical life skills and create a positive vision for the future. His experience is in a range of industries, including health, technology and education. This article is about