focus on faith
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ECR Holds Dialogue Circle to Process Election Anxiety

TJ Whitmer

Chairs scattered to make an egg-shaped circle in the dimly lit Toyota Round. A small group of students and faculty joined in on a dialogue circle. There was a slight buzz in the room as everyone got ready to share what they were feeling.

On Nov. 5, Education for Conflict Resolution held a dialogue circle for Focus on Faith week. Topics included what had been going on in the world during election week. The dialogue circle felt like a sophisticated version of an elementary school circle where everyone got to share your thoughts.

Instead of having a stick or a ball like in elementary school when gathering around the room for show-and-tell, just a slight look to the left meant the dialogue was ready to move on. As the session developed, the emotion of the room shifted from positive and negative multiple times.

A dialogue circle is a safe space for communicating individuals’ deepest thoughts. Everything said stays in the room and with the people. It is a trusting and bonding experience for all involved. Elizabeth Kreps, sophomore, has been to multiple dialogues so she knew what to expect. “Dialogue circles are extremely beneficial because it is a space that allows us to just speak freely,” Kreps said.

The session started with sharing a high and low. A high is something that the participant are proud of doing or something that made them happy during the week. A low is something that made them sad, anxious, angry and so on.

After the person has finished speaking the next person has the opportunity to summarize what the previous person said. When summarizing, there is no right or wrong answer, it is just what they heard and how they interpreted their words. Those words are the essence of remembering, essence of learning, essence of intention. When we remember, we learn more about the person, but also the topic that person is so enraged or delighted about. The essence of intention is taking the time to think about what was said to come up with our own way of explaining what the person previously said.

When the room comes to a standstill and there is no more on the attendee’s minds, there is a time for takeaways. This time is very thoughtful as the participants remember everything and take one idea away and ponder it. “When you have a set time to just sit and think, it helps you to process how you’re feeling in that moment,” Kreps said. “This can be overwhelming in some cases because you often realize what you’re truly stressed about. However, it is also extremely relaxing to get things off your chest.”

Having the time to be a part of a dialogue circle is useful if you have something you want to get off your chest. Being in a room with others that have thoughts like you can really grow a connection. “We seemed to recognize that we were all in the same emotional roller coaster,” Kreps said. “Knowing that someone else is struggling with the same things as you can really draw you closer to the people around you."