The speaking stick – a communication tool for productive conversations.

17. September 2018

As humans, we lose a lot of time and energy through bad conversations, unnecessary emotionality or negative discussions that go on inside our heads. Even more energy is consumed in unproductive conversations about other people and people who are not present. This is how ideas and images of people, experiences and conflicts form that influence our behavior, but do not necessarily correspond to reality. This limits the opportunities for open and honest communication and discourages us from resolving and clarifying conflicts or telling others what we really feel, think, have experienced and know. This applies both to the private sector and to everyday professional life, where conflict situations often arise between individuals or groups, decisions have to be made or meetings are held on a regular basis. The Talking Stick offers new opportunities for open, direct and effective communication.

A traditional instrument

The talking stick is a traditional instrument of the Indians. It is made from a piece of wood, a branch, which has a fork in the shape of an Ypsilon or a parabola and is artistically decorated depending on your wishes and preference. In principle, however, it can be any type of object that is intended for this purpose and that only serves this one function. The Talking Stick promotes respect and acceptance among users towards each other through firmly bound rules and proper use. Rules come into play here, such as: B. “Only the holder of the talking stick speaks and no one interrupts him” or “The holder speaks in the first person” play a big role. They regulate the form, the framework and the way we interact with each other and thus promote creative problem solving. Agreements made with the help of a talking stick are, then as now, binding and irrevocable. Use the Talking Stick in one-on-one conversations or for group conversations and achieve:

  • • the opportunity to have difficult conversations directly, openly and respectfully and thus to resolve conflicts sustainably,
  • • to structure and positively promote the meeting and discussion culture in order to effectively develop solutions within a given time frame,
  • • a more intense creativity for new thoughts and
  • • holistic and balanced decision-making that is made and shared by a group.

The basic structure

The two branches represent thesis and antithesis. These are found at the junction and the synthesis follows. The Talking Stick was traditionally cut from a living plant. The wrapped fur represents “animal,” the stone represents the minerals, and the colorful ribbons represent different people.

Use within teams
If team members are unfamiliar with the Talking Stick, first educate them on what the Talking Stick is, how it works, and what benefits it brings to the group.

To begin, set your intention and desired outcome. It is often helpful to sit in a circle so that all team members can see each other and are at eye level.
Pass the talking stick from person to person so that everyone has the opportunity to contribute. At that moment there is no discussion or exchange. All team members listen to each speaker so that the entire spectrum of individual positions on the topic is presented openly. Once this first round is finished, the stick is placed in the center of the circle, then the discussion begins. The talking stick can remain in the middle of the circle if the team players are disciplined in their communication, otherwise the stick is also passed from person to person during the discussion. Many teams find it helpful to designate one person to oversee the process.

Once a round is complete, the stick is placed back in the center of the circle and a summary of the decisions, consensus, or new understanding is made. Remind everyone that anything said during the session cannot be used against each other outside of the session.

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