RE: Sharing Circles
From: Rob Sandelin (
Date: Tue, 12 May 1998 20:00:30 -0500
Sharing circles are simply a tool, and like any tool, its use can be modified 
to meet your needs, at least to some extent. I would encourage you to hold 
guiding sharing circles and include newcomers and visitors. Make the topics 
interesting (in a guiding sharing, the guide suggests the topic) stuff like, I 
want Liberty Village to be a place where ________, or my favorite relative, a 
story from my childhood - topics where people share their histories, their 
hopes and dreams. This is very bonding stuff, this sharing, and very few 
opportunities arise in most peoples lives to share this in an intimate 
setting. I was a visitor at a fancy retreat center in Hawaii once, and people 
paid $2,000 each to spend the weekend having sharing circles!

I would advise to keep sharing circles for dealing with feelings about 
community issues somewhat closed to committed members to encourage safety. How 
you define committed members is up to you. I have not much experience with 
Sharing Circles in forming communities. I stole the notion from already 
existing communities, thus the dichotomy of whose in and whose not is much 
clearer.  The idea works both ways, people may not open up with first timers 
watching for fear of scaring them away, and if they do, they in fact may scare 
new people away.

You can open them up if you wish but pay attention to how people react. It 
would be a good idea to start with them closed for the first few times just to 
have a sense of what they are like before opening them up, so you have 
something to compare to.

But. as always, feel free to ignore me and experiment. Each group gets its own 
mileage out of these tools.

Rob Sandelin

From:   cohousing-l [at] on behalf of Paul Kilduff
Sent:   Tuesday, May 12, 1998 11:11 PM
Subject:        Sharing Circles

from Paul Kilduff, Liberty Village, Libertytown MD, moving in, we hope,
Nov, 1998.

We are using guidelines for sharing circles taken from an article by Rob
Sandelin in CoHousing Journal, Winter, 1994.  We just did our first one
last week.  Most wonderful experience.

One thing I am wondering about is "Rob's recommendation" number 1, "No
strangers; members only."

For one thing, I found the process so powerful that it seems hard to
believe that strangers could screw it up.  For another, I wondered when
people got to be non-strangers: when they pay their $6,000?  Seems kind
of a strange standard, but it's the definition we're using.  I also
wonder, looking at it from another angle, how people can become
non-strangers if they're not allowed to participate in the sharing
circle -- kind of a chicken-egg thing.  How do you define strangers and
members, and how does a stranger become a member without participating
in the circle?

I would have sent this just to Rob, but I thought I'd also like to get
others' reactions.

Thank you,

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