“Fishbowl” Exercise — Condensed Directions

provided by Connie Goodbread, UUA Southern Region Co-Lead

  • Place ten chairs in a circle.
  • Facilitator and Partner sit across from one another at opposite poles of the circle.
  • Eight people join them in the circle.
  • The Rules:
    1. Name the topic and set the allotted time frame
    2. Those inside the circle agree to …
      — stay in the circle until the talking in over
      — only speak for one’s self
      — refrain from name calling, blaming and interrupting
      — listen deeply
      — speak one at a time
      — speak into the circle only ( that is, wait until after the whole exercise to address those not in the circle)
      — allow each person in the circle the opportunity to speak
      — allow each person the choice to pass and/or speak later
    3. Those outside the circle agree to listen and refrain from speaking
    4. Facilitator and Partner agree to …
      — make sure everyone is given a chance to speak (Note: There is no need to “go around the circle” … Each one speaks at will.
      — keep track of time so that everyone has a chance to be heard
      — go back to a person who passes and ask them if they wish to speak
      — take a full minute of silence if the rules are broken
      — lead the debrief conversation after the fishbowl(s), if that is desired and agreed upon by the group

Visit Facing History for additional guidance on fishbowl exercises.