In last week’s example we described how Gerry had a new problem; a line of diners asking for help with their disputes while Gerry was trying to run the dining room during service.

The nature of the population meant that a quiet, calm dining room can mean the difference between a safe space for families to feel welcome or feuds between individuals causing distress to others. Of course Gerry wanted to maintain a safe space so he asked us what could be done. We decided that the diners needed a place to air their frustrations so we trained some volunteers to facilitate Dialogue Circles.

With a lead facilitator and at least one ‘anchor’ to support the facilitator we encouraged diners to attend the circle to talk about their difficulties in a non-judgemental space. The circle takes place once a week after the dining service and a small group of regular diners find understanding, support and comfort from sharing their stories. Some circle members have no one to speak to and can go days in loneliness and isolation so this has become an important part of their week.

In some cases the issues that come up mean that the diners can be signposted to agencies that can help them and on one diner was able to talk about her suicidal thoughts and get help for her and her children. In other cases the issues shared means that a private conversation can be facilitated between diners in conflict so that issues are dealt with fairly and respectfully and not in the heat of the moment.


Names have been changed.


Giving people a space to offload is important in communities especially when poverty, loneliness and isolation are major issues. Instead of reacting to their triggers, the diners are more able to bring their emotional pain to a caring space where they can be heard. The diners are learning to trust that their issues matter and that conflict can be managed and resolved in a more dignified process than through outbursts and fighting.

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