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Friday, November 15, 2013

Speak Softly, And Carry A Small Stick (e.g., a "talking stick")

A book on the subject
"Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry."
- James 1:19 (ISV)
In relationships where people are having difficulty really hearing each other, I often recommend the use of a "talking stick".

The idea came from reading about a Native Americans practice that was often used in tribal or other meetings. The leader of the gathering, usually the Chief, held the talking stick and introduced the purpose of the discussion. Participants then took turns, with only the person holding the stick being allowed to speak. That person passed the stick to the next speaker, and so on. Everyone but the one holding the stick was to remain silent and listen respectfully.

Numerous couples to whom I've recommended this practice have found it a helpful way to encourage more reflective listening and to prevent constant interruptions and arguing, the latter being a case of having two or more speakers and no listener.

I've also had parents tell me this has worked well for their family meetings or for one on one conversations with their kids. In one case, a parent reported that their adolescent son, who was typically sullen and unresponsive whenever they tried discussing something with him, began to really open up when he had the family talking stick in hand, something that added to his confidence that he would have a respectful hearing.

Here's a link to some more information: http://kokopelli.southwestwoodcrafts.com/talkingsticks.htm
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