Peace Parlor Interview with Circle Ways co-founder, Joe Provisor

Watch the Peace Parlor Interview with co-founder Joe Provisor:


Our very own Circle Ways co-founder, Joe Provisor, will be interviewed on Thursday, April 26, 2018 at noon by Peace Parlor host, Catherine Cooley. She is a mediator and communication coach who works with people to resolve conflicts, repair relationships and create consistently peaceful, cooperative and joyful relationships at work and at home. You can learn more about her at

Ask yourself: “What’s the one source for joy, happiness and success in my life?” If you’re like most people, the answer is relationships. The most detailed long-term study of human happiness ever undertaken is the 80-year- old Harvard University Study of Adult Development.

Robert Waldinger, current director of the study, and a professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School said, “The surprising finding is happy we are in our relationships has a powerful influence on our health. Those who kept warm relationships got to live longer and happier.”

What the Harvard study does not show you, however, is how to have successful relationships. That’s where the Peace Parlor comes in, to bring us people who are successful in their careers and relationships, living their lives from great courage, creativity, leadership and love. What are their relationships like, and what have they learned about relating to and inspiring people along the way?

We hope you can join us!


Interviews run 45 minutes, and toward the end we save 5-10 minutes to answer your questions.

When: April 26, 2018 12:00 PM Pacific Time (US and Canada)

Topic: Peace Parlor - Secrets of Relationship Gurus

Register in advance for this webinar:


(from “Getting ready for our Peace Parlor interview” email from Catherine)

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about

joining the webinar.

Another school shooting

Today we learn of another school shooting, this time in Parkland, Florida, an affluent community north of Miami.  At least 17 people are dead, and the shooter was a 19 year old former student.  We have seen this before. In 1999, 15 died including the two student shooters at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado.  We were fortunate at the time to have a systemic council program at Palms Middle School.  Here is the message that went out to staff.

Response to the Tragedy in Littleton, Colorado



As I write this, I am filled with grief over the events of yesterday.  I am also more acutely aware of the preciousness of each moment and each meeting with others.

Although we are often overwhelmed and made numb by the weight of such a tragedy, there is an opportunity for deeper healing if we can fully experience our grief and respond appropriately.

Unlike many other programs for young people, the Council Project attempts to be systemic.  That is, it is in place, school-wide when events affect the entire community. Students and staff are practiced in turning towards one another in the circles.

Even though students might not "choose" to talk about the events that occurred in Littleton, we may feel a responsibility as educators to lead a discussion of the underlying topics.  Littleton may seem a world away to our students, but the forces at work in such violence are within us all.

The first step is to find out what students know, and be informed enough yourself about the facts of the incident so as to clear up any misconceptions.  The second thing is to create a space where students can express the full spectrum of emotional response, from profound grief to numbness and denial.  A simple council question like, "How did you react when you heard about this incident?" can be enough. 

Further rounds of Council can focus on questions such as the following:

Recall a time when you witnessed someone behave violently or you, yourself, lost your temper and lashed out.  In subsequent rounds, you can ask students to say why they think the violence occurred and to speculate about what could have prevented it.

As violence is often the result of feelings of alienation, before a council you can have students discuss what an "outsider" is.  Then, council, ask them to recall a time when they felt like an outsider, separate or separated from others, or when they were aware of someone else who was in that position.  Again, what caused this separation and how could it have been prevented?  If they speak about another person, they can also talk about what they did or did not do to help that person feel included.

For closure, you can ask something like: What, if anything, can you as an individual do right here and right now to prevent violence and promote better understanding?

There is a quote that we use often in the Council Project that has been credited to both Gene Knudsen Hoffman (Quaker peace activist, poet founder of the Compassionate Listening Project) and Thich Nhat Hanh (Vietnamese Buddhist peace activist and poet, nominated by Dr. Martin Luther King for the Nobel Peace Prize).  They say, "An enemy is one whose story has not yet been heard."  May we all become better listeners to those stories.


Councils on Love!




Councils on Love

Joe Provisor, Circle Ways

This time calls for deepening our understanding of what connects us.  The Greeks called this glue “Eros.”  We call it “Love.”  But what is love?  How do we understand it?  How do we know it when we see it?   Even the Greeks described SIX types of love.

Here is a sequence for a wisdom council on love: 

Warm-up: Ask the group, “How many of you have ever felt this thing we call ‘love’?  How many have felt love for someone?  How many have felt someone’s love for you?  Now, think about a person for whom or from whom you have felt this thing called ‘love.’  Think of a place or an occasion when you felt it.”  (Perhaps give some examples.)

Brainstorm round:  Just say the name of the person you associate with “love.”  Or just say the place or occasion.

Story round:  Tell about a time you KNEW you felt this thing called love, either for someone or from someone toward you (or even a time of self-love).

Echo round (witnessing): Say something you heard another person say in the story round.  (A deeper witnessing would be to also say what it was the resonated for you in the story of another.)

Harvesting round:  Given the stories we just heard, what can we say about this thing humans call “love”?

With older students or adults, you might want to use the same process to explore the subtle differences between and within the six types: Eros (sexual love), Philia (deep friendship), Ludus (playful love), Agape (love for all beings), Pragma (longstanding love), and Philautia (love of self)

Game option: Participants tell a story of an experience of any form of love.  After the story, the group can guess the type.



Here are some points to make with school directors and other educators who might consider bringing council practice to their school or classroom:

1. When students feel seen and heard, they do better in school.

2. “Resilience,” the capacity to overcome difficult circumstance depends on having personal relationships.

3. When students participate in council, they are SIMULTANEOUSLY developing social-emotional and academic skills. (See research done by CASEL:, an organization founded by Daniel Goleman, author of Emotional Intelligence.)

4. Council promotes the following social-emotional skills: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making.

5. Reading and writing well depend on speaking and listening skills. Speaking and listening are the foundations of literacy.

6. When staff members feel connected to one another in a meaningful way, they are happier at work and more productive.

7. Council develops what systems analysts call an “open-feedback loop,” essential for any organization to evolve and truly serve the needs of its constituents.

8. Parents learn from each other's wisdom in parent councils.

9. Parent-staff-student councils provide a powerful sense of community, a sense that we are all in this together (rather than the usual bickering that goes on between groups).

10. Council is the “art of collaboration,” an essential, portable, workplace skill that students take into every aspect of their personal and professional lives.

11. “Restorative justice,” a school discipline policy based on healing harms rather than punishment (suspending, expelling students), is now policy in many schools in the US. Council is the foundation of restorative justice. Council builds community. If there is no sense of community, no sense of deep connection between people, there is nothing to “restore,” no reason to do the hard work of taking personal responsibility and meaningfully resolving conflicts.

Each of these points is backed up by research. And your participation in council, as a teacher or director, will give students and staff a chance to see your humanity rather than just your role or position. This, in turn, will actually bolster your authority and deepen respect for your role or position.


All the ages in an hour?

Thoreau suggests that when we bring our attention fully to another person, as we do in council, then much is revealed.  He suggests that we are each vast storehouses of experience and wisdom. As a facilitator of council, I often ask students to "tell a story," only to hear in response, "I don't have any stories."  When I ask where stories come from, I'm told that they come from books and movies.