Our workshop participants tell us that one of our most impactful practices is the simple one of checking in. For those not familiar, it consists of inviting everyone in a group, often sitting or standing in a circle, to check in, saying how they are as they come into a meeting and what they want from the session.
A few things are powerful about this practice. Without pressure, it invites people to disclose a small piece – as much or as little as is (reasonably) comfortable – about themselves and their intentions. The physical arrangement is a circle – at least a rough one – where everyone can see everyone else. Spatially, everyone is equal, despite people coming with different levels of responsibility, seniority, experience and organisational power. All voices are heard in turn, on an equal footing, without interruption. Anyone may pass if they so choose.
A check-in can be held in response to a particular question, which could be simply “How are you as you enter this meeting? What do you hope for in our session?” If a group is new to one another, the check-in can start with people sharing their names and a brief self-introduction. Each person’s check-in can end with “I’m in” and the group may respond with a common acknowledgement, like “You’re welcome.”
People’s first participation in check-ins may feel strange; they may be accustomed to conventional meetings with conventional seating that launch immediately into an agenda. To ease the transition, facilitators and those familiar with the practice can model contributions. At first, people may only check in with fairly factual or polite observations about the kind of day they’re having and their expectations for the agenda. Whatever they freely offer is fully acceptable. A key check-in principle is to make everyone welcome in whatever way they choose to enter.
We consistently find that once it is clear that everyone’s contribution is indeed welcome, people start to share more of their feelings and their genuine hopes. Each person speaks with their own voice … and … the sequence of responses allows people to be encouraged by and build on the contributions of others. The flow of shared comments tends, in a gentle, unpressured way, to build a deepening pattern of self-revelation, of “showing up”. In the subtlest and softest way, the practice starts to build a trusting container, and the foundation laid can be built upon for deeper dialogue and deeper exchange on many levels.
For more ideas and insights on check-in practices, and about equal voicing in talking circles, please be invited to explore:
The Core Protocols, by Jim and Michele McCarthy https://liveingreatness.com/core-protocols/
Time to Think, by Nancy Kline Time to Think, Amazon UK
Talking Circles, First Nations Pedagogy Online http://firstnationspedagogy.ca/circletalks.html
Fun Retrospectives: Check-in http://www.funretrospectives.com/category/check-in/