Social-emtional: What do we do if our circle has a strong, vocal person by whom people feel intimidated and afraid to give feedback?

Be aware that there is not only one story – the person coming across as “intimidating” might have no idea that this is how they are perceived. Responsibility is present on all sides: one person might act in ways that can be interpreted as overly assertive. Yet, others let it happen and/or interpret that person’s behavior in that way. Ideally, create a container where it is safe to bring this up. For example, a circle feedback can be a great tool to be more vocal and intentional about how we operate as a circle. The “intimidating person” might acknowledge this pattern themselves which will make it possible to be ally to the person. Or the other circle members can own and acknowledge their own perspective, with a lot of self-responsibility (meaning, for example, instead “you are intimidating and it’s your fault that no one dares to contradict you”, one can say something like “I don’t know what is going on for you when you ___ (interrupt others, make assertive statements) but I notice what happens for me, and that’s that I am discouraged because I don’t know what to say.) Remember it’s not about the words said, more about the thought that in every relationship, both sides are fully responsible.

For more information, check out our handbook Many Voices One Song chapter 4, chapter 6, and section 6.10.5