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Gratitude Circle

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Group size

2 – 500

More infos to group size

scalable for any group size

Is participant experience relevant?

It's okay if participants haven't seen the inside of a classroom in years.

Physical trust needed

Mental trust needed



10 minutes – 60 minutes

Experience level of the facilitator

self explanatory, no experience needed

Location requirements

Participants should be seated comfortably, in a circle or around a table.


Level of activation


Woo-Woo Level – How touchy-feely is this method?

From 1.Rationalist-Materialist “No feelings here, folks.” to 5.Esoteric-Shamanic Bleeding Heart:

Innovation Phases:

Method Category:

Appreciative / Community building
Ceremony / Ritual


Participants share specific appreciations and gratitude for other participants in the group. This practice can seriously transform the energy of a group. It is an excellent closing ceremony or to celebrate a person, program, project, or milestone.


Gratitude Fishbowl




Sometimes it is nice to mention that you will be doing this the day before so participants can think a little about what they would like to say.

PREPARATION (excluding materials)

At someone's last night at the Art Monastery, we use the Gratitude Fishbowl. The person who is leaving "sits in the fishbowl." This means they are the recipient of gratitude and appreciation from the other members of the group. The person in the fishbowl is not allowed to respond to these gratitudes. This can be difficult, but they must sit there and take it!

Adaption: Gratitude Circle is a more open form where anyone in the circle can appreciate anyone else in the group.

Gratitude can be a powerful transformative tool. Often we don't realize that we forget to share our gratitude with people. This method offers an opportunity to do that.

Guidelines for the most powerful gratitude
-Make it specific and concrete. More effective than "You're always so generous!"" is "Sylvia, I really appreciate that you so easily invited me to stay with you in your home and that you also offered me a ride to and fro the conference."
-Say how this person's action affected you. If you say "You're the best!"(which the recipient can internally deny, "No, I'm not. She's just being nice." More powerful would be to say "When you invited me to stay in your home I felt included because you are invited me into your personal space. I know that takes extra time and effort on your part, but it also offers me the opportunity to experience a different side of Austria, so it really enriches my travel experience. You inviting me to stay with you touched me and as a result I immediately felt more at ease from the beginning of the program. As a result, I participated more in discussions and generally felt more confident. Thank you so much for that. I'm inspired to be more welcoming of foreigners when I meet them now."
-Don't make a Future Gratitude. It doesn't feel good to hear "I'm really grateful for all the work you are going to do for me."
-Don't make a gratiturd. A gratiturd is a jab veiled as an appreciation, usually thanking someone for NOT doing something. For example, "Thank you for not dominating yesterday's discussion."

-Make sure it is clear that sharing gratitude is not mandatory. Forced gratitude can be counterproductive.
-For this reason, it's important to go popcorn style and that people can go more than once.
-For the adaption of Gratitude Circle, where anyone can receive appreciations, the facilitator should keep tabs on who hasn't received any gratitude and offer them some. This often jogs others' memories and they will follow up with more.
This exercise can work nicely sitting in a circle but also over a meal or drinks. Sometimes it can get going and last for more than an hour. Follow the energy of the group, as time allows. It is particularly true for Gratitude Fishbowl to set a time limit (something like 5 or 10 or 15 minutes depending on the size of the group). In addition to that, if you notice that not everyone has offered gratitude and there is a longer pause between people speaking, then leap in to close the exercise. (It doesn't feel good for the fish to sit in the bowl with everyone looking at her or him and no one is talking.) Close by making a toast or cheering and clapping.

If you do this exercise regularly, participants begin to prepare for it by noting things they are grateful for or want to celebrate. This can have a powerful transformative rippling effect on the whole group.



Closing ceremony for a program (Gratitude Circle) - It can also work in the early phases of a program depending on how much contact the participants had before they arrived.
Birthday/Departure/Retirement (Gratitude Fishbowl) or Celebration or Community Building
Team Building - in preparation for an event and in post-reflection on an event
Post-Conflict Resolution - After a difficult period has been resolved, Gratitude Circle can be a way of putting a balm on the wounds. You may want to remind people to be authentic in what they say, or to offer a different frame like sharing highlights from the program and appreciating moments they will take with them when they go.

One time the core team was preparing to host a singing workshop. We had all gotten really stressed out and the morning they were to arrive it felt like we were already really annoyed with them. We did a quick Gratitude Circle, standing around in the office. The ED revealed how much money the group was bringing in, the receptionist commented on how careful the teacher was in her communications, the driver noted how he got to learn new areas in preparation for the group. After 20 minutes, the team of 7 couldn't wait for the group to arrive. The workshop was a big success and we'll never know how impactful that preparatory Gratitude Circle was.

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